Born as Elizabeth Diane Frederickson Downs on 7 August 1955, in Phoenix, Arizona, Diane Downs was the oldest of the four children of Wesley Linden and Willadene Engle Frederickson. The family moved to different towns until Wesley got a stable job with the US Postal service when Diane was around eleven years old. The family had conservative values and Diane seemingly followed the family norms, until she was fourteen. During that time, she became adamant and defiant, as she struggled to become accepted by a popular group at the school, much of which meant going against the wishes of her parents. After her graduation from Moon Valley High School in Phoenix, Diane joined the Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College in Orange, California, only to be expelled only after a year for promiscuity and returned to her parents' home in Arizona.
At that stage of life, Downs dropped her formal name, Elizabeth and replaced it for her middle name Diane. Apart from that she also changed her childish hairstyle for a trendy, shorter and bleached blond style. To complete the issue, she started to use more stylish and revealing clothing, showing off her maturing curve. Before she joined the Bible College, she began a relationship with a sixteen-year-old boy Steven Downs, who lived across the street. Though the relationship was not approved by her parents, it continued and by the time she was sixteen, the relationship had become sexual. After the high school, Steven joined the Navy, while Diane was in the Bible College and though they promised to remain faithful to each other, Diane apparently failed to keep her promise during her short stint in the college, as she was expelled for promiscuity.
However, their long-distance relationship apparently survived, as they married on 13 November 1973, when Steven came home from the Navy. Unfortunately, it was not the happy ending of a romantic story, as the marriage was tumultuous from the very beginning. They fought over financial problems and accusations of infidelities, which often resulted in spurts of Diane leaving Steven for her parents' home. However, despite their marital problems, the couple had their first child in 1974. It was a daughter, whom they called Christie Ann. However, when Cheryl Lynn was born to them in 1975, Steven had a vasectomy.
The couple moved to Mesa in Arizona in 1978, where both of them were absorbed at a mobile home manufacturing company. There, Diane began her promiscuity again to start a sexual relationship with one of her male coworkers and became pregnant. In December 1979, when she gave birth to Stephen Daniel ‘Danny’ Downs, Steven accepted the child, even though he knew he was not his father. In spite of that, their marriage lasted about a year more until 1980 when Steven and Diane decided to divorce.
During that time, as she could not find any opening, Diane decided to become a surrogate mother, as a means to support herself and her kids. She applied for eligibility, but failed the necessary psychiatric exams, as she was found psychotic. Finally, she got a full-time job as a postal carrier for the US Post Office in 1981.While attending duties, she often kept her minor children with her parents or her divorced husband or with the father of her illegitimate child, Danny. While under her care, she used to go to work, even she could not arrange for a sitter, leaving six-year-old Christie in charge of the children. However, her neighbours were worried about the welfare of the children and voiced their concerns about their proper care, while they stayed unattended in her home, as the children were often seen poorly dressed, despite bad weather and often ask for food, as they feel hungry.
In the meantime, during the later part of 1981, Diane was accepted into a surrogate programme and gave birth to a daughter through surrogacy on 8 May 1982. She named the child Jennifer before turning her over to her intended parents and was paid $10,000 after successfully carrying a child to term.
It was during this time that Diane found the man of her dreams, her coworker Robert ‘Nick’ Knickerbocker, with whom she began an extramarital affair. It was all about sex and Diane was forcing him to leave his wife. However, the man was almost suffocating by her demands and he was still in love with his wife. Finally, he completely rejected Diane in April 1983, telling her frankly that the relationship is over and that he has no interest to raise her children as a daddy.
Soon after she was rejected by her lover, Diane pulled over on the side of a quiet road near Springfield, Oregon on 19 May 1983 and shot her three children multiple times. After that, she shot her herself in the left forearm and drove the car slowly to the McKenzie-Willamette Hospital. She reported that they were shot by a strange-looking bushy-haired man, who flagged her down on the road and then unsuccessfully tried to hijack her car. It was found that, Cheryl was brought dead, Christie had suffered a disabling stroke and Danny was paralyzed from waist down. However, despite the poor condition of her children, her apparently cool manner created suspicion among the investigators and the doctors as well.
Later, the forensic investigation was found to be mismatched with the story depicted by Dane Downs. There was no blood spatters on the driver's side of the car, nor was there any gunpowder residue on the driver's door or on the interior door panel. Though her left forearm was broken by a gunshot, that was only superficial compared to the damage suffered by her children. It was also discovered that she did not disclose to the police that she owns a `22 caliber handgun, which was of the same type used in the crime.
Though the investigators were unable to find the weapon, they found the unfired casings in her home with the extractor markings from the weapon. The police also recovered Diane’s diary, where she obsessively wrote about her extramarital affair with Robert Knickerbocker, including his unwillingness to raise her children, which helped the police to piece together the motive for her crime. Moreover, a man reported to the police that on that specific night he passed the car of Diane Downs on the road and noticed that she was driving the car very slowly toward the hospital. His description conflicted with Diane's version of the story to the police in which she said she sped in terror to the hospital.
After nine months of intensive investigation, a pregnant Diane Down was arrested on 28 February 1984, charged with murder, attempted murder and criminal assault of her three children. It was alleged that, as Knickerbocker did not want Diane’s children in his life, she shot her children and wanted to kill them to make herself free of them, so that she could continue her affair.
During the trial that began on 10 May 1984 and continued for six weeks, most important testimony was given by Diane’s surviving daughter Christie, who for months was unable to speak due to a stroke she suffered from the gunshot. During the times, when Diane visited her in the hospital, she clearly expressed signs of fear. Nevertheless, by the time of the trial, she recovered considerably to speak and eventually testified that there was no stranger on the scene of crime and it was her mother that did the shooting.
Eventually, Diane Downs was convicted on all charges on 17 June1984, and sentenced to life in prison to plus fifty years. Her surviving children, Christie and Danny Downs, were adopted by prosecutor Fred Hugi and his wife in 1986. At the time of her arrest, Downs was pregnant with a fourth child and gave birth to a girl, whom she named Amy Elizabeth in July 1984. Ten days before her sentencing, Amy was seized by the State of Oregon and was later adopted by Chris and Jackie Babcock, who named her Rebecca ‘Becky’ Babcock. However, Diane managed to escape from the Oregon Women's Correctional Center on 11 July 1987. She was recaptured ten days later, just a few blocks from the prison and received an additional five-year sentence for the escape. She was first eligible for parole in 2008, which was denied. She received a second parole hearing in December 2010, when she again refused to take the responsibility for the shooting and was denied again. According to a new Oregon law, she will not face a parole board again until 2020. Currently, Diane Downs is detained at the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, California.