Diane Downs and the Bushy-haired Stranger

On May 19, 1983 Elizabeth Diane Fredrickson pulled up to the emergency entrance of the McKenzie-Willamette hospital, honking the horn on her blood-spattered car until a nurse ran outside to investigate. The hospital staff found a horrific sight: 3 little children ages 3 years to 8 years lay motionless inside Diane’s car. As hospital staff removed the children from her car Diane screamed “somebody shot my kids!” Watch Small Sacrifices Part 1 

Diane was born in Phoenix, Arizona, to Wes and Willadene Frederickson on August 7, 1955.  She alleges that her father molested her when she was a child. She graduated from Moon Valley High School in Phoenix where she met her husband, Steve Downs. After high school, she enrolled at Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College but was expelled for promiscuity. On November 13, 1973, she married Steve. They were divorced in 1980, about a year after the birth of Stephen “Danny” Downs. Diane was employed as a U.S. postal worker assigned to the mail routes in the city of Cottage Grove, Oregon. On arrival at the hospital Cheryl Downs was already dead. Diane was shot in the left forearm. She claimed she was carjacked on a rural road by a strange man. Investigators became suspicious by her calm manner. Their suspicions heightened when Diane went to see Christie. Christie’s eyes glazed over with fear and her heart rate jumped dramatically. Diane called a married man named Robert Knickerbocker upon arriving at the hospital. Forensic evidence did not match her story; there was no blood on the driver’s side of the car. Most damaging, witnesses saw Diane’s car being driven very slowly toward the hospital at speed of five to seven mph. She was arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder, and criminal assault. Watch Diane Downs Short Version

Prosecutors argued that Diane shot her children so that she could continue her affair with Knickerbocker, who told her he did not want children. Much of the case against Diane rested on the testimony of surviving daughter Christie Downs, who described how her mother shot all three children then shot herself in the arm. Diane was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to life in prison. Psychologists diagnosed Diane with narcissistic, histrionic, and antisocial personality disorders. Watch Mom: bushy-haired stranger shot kids

Diane became pregnant again with a fourth child and gave birth to a girl she named Amy a month after her trial. The baby was seized by the State of Oregon and adopted soon after. She was renamed Rebecca “Becky” Babcock. In her application for parole Diane reaffirmed her innocence: “Over the years, I have told you and the rest of the world that a man shot me and my children. I never changed my story.” District Attorney Douglas Harcleroad wrote to the parole board: “Diane fails to demonstrate honest insight into her criminal behavior … Even after her convictions, she continues to fabricate new versions of events under which the crimes occurred.” She alternately refers to her assailants as a “bushy-haired stranger“, two men wearing ski masks, or drug dealers and corrupt law enforcement officials. Watch Diane Downs testifies at parole hearing

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