Murderous mother: Diane Downs

It is difficult for any normal parent to comprehend the case of Oregon’s Diane Downs. In 1983, the young mother of shot all of her children when she pulled her car over in a rural area during the night. She killed one of her children and permanently disabled the other two. As many would after her, she claimed that a carjacker did it. Diane was having an affair with a co-worker at the time, and lucky fella Robert Knickerbocker made it clear to Diane that he did not want children.

Then, Diane didn’t want kids either.

Diane Downs was sentenced to life plus 50 years, with the sentences to run consecutively. She was denied parole in 2008 and 2010, and is not eligible to be considered for parole again until 2020, when she is 65 years old. Diane has not admitted any wrongdoing in the attack on her children.

Diane escaped from the prison in 1987 and was captured roughly 10 days later. Her escape got another 5 years added to her sentence.

Diane became pregnant before her sentencing and gave birth to a daughter in 1984, which was taken by Oregon’s Family Services Department. The baby, named Rebecca Babcock, was successfully adopted. She found out who her biological mother was at 16, when a boyfriend showed her a made-for-tv movie about Diane’s case.  Rebecca wrote to Diane in prison, but stopped contacting Diane when Diane’s letters became alternately angry and paranoid. Rebecca still lives in Oregon and has a son of her own.

Christie & Danny Downs, the two surviving children, were adopted by a couple who were prosecutors for the state of Oregon. Christie suffers from partial paralysis, and Danny is a quadriplegic. Both graduated from college. Christie married and had a child. Danny works as a computer specialist. They do not participate in Diane’s parole process.

The alleged super-stud Robert Knickerbocker still lives in Arizona.

Ann Rule wrote about this case in her best-selling book Small Sacrifices. It was also made into a TV movie of the same title starring Farrah Fawcett.


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