On the night of May 19, 1983, Diane Downs entered an emergency room bay in Springfield, Oregon. Her three children, Christie, 8, Cheryl, 7, and Danny, 3, were in the back seat covered in blood: they had been shot point blank. The emergency room staff declared Cheryl dead at the scene and placed the other two in the hospital with life threatening injuries. When questioned about the events that occurred, Downs explained the story of a man who flagged her down off the side of a dirt road, while her three children were sleeping in the backseat. He demanded her car, she refused, and he shot her children. After getting away, she fled to the emergency room. During the struggle with the “shaggy-haired” man, she also obtained a shot in her left arm but it was not life threatening.
While her children were still in the hospital, Downs began giving media interviews, telling strange stories and explaining her innocence. Her story did not add up; it was full of extraneous details that lessened the legitimacy of the story. Describing that she was taking the children to sight see in the dark, while they were sleeping, did not seem to make much sense. Police began investigating Downs. They were able to locate her secret journals that explained an affair she was having with a married man. The man she was involved with did not want children, which made her view them as a burden.
Although a stroke impaired Christie’s ability to speak, she was able to start telling police what she remembered about that night. Her story did not involve seeing a “shaggy-haired” man. This led police to arrest Downs in February 1984 with a trial beginning in May of the same year. However, Downs had a plan to gain sympathy from the jury. She seduced a man along her postal route and was pregnant during her trial. After all the evidence was introduced against Downs, a star witness was placed on the stand. Following months of physical and mental therapy, Christie Downs was able to take the stand and tell the jury who shot her. Downs was found guilty and sentenced to life plus fifty years. She was able to give birth between the verdict and sentencing. The baby, named Amy Elizabeth, was adopted by another family and renamed Becky Babcock.
Only three years into her sentence, Downs managed to escape from the prison in Oregon where she was being held. Two weeks later, she was discovered just blocks from the prison, in the home of another inmate’s husband. She remains in prison today, in California, at a higher security facility. In 2008 and 2010, she was denied parole and must wait a decade before applying again.
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