DIANE DOWNS ALLIE HERRMANN PD 6
BACKGROUND • Middle class family • Oldest of 4 siblings • Had a rough childhood and struggled to fit in because her family moved often • Started disobeying her parents at 14 • Against her parent’s wishes she had a sexual relationship with Steve Downs at the age of 16. • Went to college but was expelled for promiscuity • Married Steve in November of 1973 • They had a bad marriage and Diane would often leave and go to her parents house • Had her daughter Christie in 1974 • Joined the Navy 6 months after Christie was born but dropped out in the middle of basic training
BACKGROUND CON’T • Had her second child Cheryl Lynne in 1975 • Steve had a vasectomy because he did not want any more children • Diane liked being pregnant so she got pregnant with another man but had an abortion • Had her third child, Danny, in 1979 with another man • Steve and Diane got divorced in 1980 • Diane started dating Robert “Nick” Knickerbocker, he liked Diane but he did not want the burden of her children • Nick left Diane and returned to his wife • Diane desperately tried to get him back
THE CRIME • May 19th 1983 around 10pm • Diane was heading home from a friend’s house with her three children in the back seat. She pulled the car over on the side of a dirt road in Springfield, Oregon and shot her three children with a .22 caliber handgun. She then shot herself in the arm and drove to McKenzie-Williams Hospital. When they got to the hospital, Cheryl was already dead and Danny and Christie were barely alive. • Diane told police that a shaggy haired man flagged her down on the road and tried to hijack the car. When Diane refused, he started shooting. • Investigators quickly found Diane’s story to be very suspicious.
THE INVESTIGATION • Diane’s story continually failed to match the evidence found at the scene and in the car. • Blood splatters did not match her story • Gun powder residue was not found where it should have been • Diane’s diary was found that stated she was madly in love with Robert Knickerbocker but she didn’t know what to do about the fact that he didn’t want children • Diane never cried at the hospital and showed no interest in her children’s health conditions • Christie’s vital signs would spike and look terrified when she saw her mother in the hospital • Biggest piece of evidence • Christie, who was unable to speak for 4 months because of a stroke from the horrible night, told prosecutors that there was no stranger and that it was her mother that shot them.
THE ARREST • Finally on February 28, 1984, Diane Downs was arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder, and criminal assault of her three children.
Criminal Terms • Murder- the killing of a human being with malice thoughts. • Attempted Murder- the attempt to kill a human being. • Criminal assault- a treat or use of force on another that causes harm or fear.
The Sentence • Diane Downs was found guilty on all charges on June 17, 1984. • She was sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years.
Sociological Theory The sociological theory of deviance that I think best describes my criminal is the Differential-Association Theory. This is the theory that people’s behavior is largely determined by the company thy keep. Evidence shows that Diane’s motives to shoot her children relied heavily on Robert Kickerbocker. Diane claimed to be in love with “Nick”. However, Nick did not want to have children or have to raise children. This was something that he regularly told Diane. Diane was with Nick all the time and would frequently drop the kids off at her parents so she could spend more time with Nick. I think this theory perfectly explains Diane because she was clearly influenced by someone to shoot her children. No mother in their right mind just shoots her three children for no reason. Diane’s relationship with Nick destroyed her family, but she didn’t care because she just wanted to be with Nick.
Cultural References • Books • Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule • Diane Downs: Best Kept Secrets by Diane Downs • TV • Small Sacrifies (TV Movie)