Ann Rule’s shocking and powerful account of the destructive forces that drove Diane Downs, a beautiful young mother, to shoot her three young children in cold blood. Includes 11 photos!
On the evening of May 19th, 1983, Diane Downs arrived at Mckenzie-Willamette Hospital driving a blood splattered Nissan. Inside were her three children (Christie Ann 8, Cheryl Lynn 7, and Stephen Daniel 3) in critical condition, lying in the back seat suffering from fresh gunshot wounds. Downs herself had been shot in the arm and immediately told authorities that a “bushy haired stranger” flagged her down on the side of a nearby deserted road and proceeded to shoot her three children, and then herself. She claimed she barely managed to get into the car and drive off, leaving the man behind. Two of Downs’ children, Christie Ann and Stephen Daniel, were expected to make a full recovery, while Cheryl Lynn passed away shortly after arriving at the hospital. Downs’ strange and cold reaction to this news was what immediately heightened the suspicions of the hospital staff and authorities, contributing to her becoming the lead suspect. As the investigation continued, her version of the story became more convoluted and new evidence against her led to her arrest.
In 1989 SMALL SACRIFICES was made into the popular TV movie of the same name starring Farrah Fawcett, which earned her an Emmy nomination.
“This searching analysis of the shooting of three children in Oregon by their mother devolves into a study of personality….Under police questioning she recalled her childhood with a cold, domineering father who abused her sexually, her weak mother, a rape by one of her bosses, her failed marriage and many men with whom she had sex. One of these men, whom she claimed to love, did not want children, and that may have prompted the crime, speculates the author. The greatest strength of this book is the exploration by ex-policewoman Rule of the aberrant personality of Downs, who is now imprisoned and not eligible for parole until 2020.” -Publishers Weekly
“A harrowing pathological portrait, a nearly unthinkable triple-murder plot, a hold-your-breath police procedural and a tale of dedication and compassion all superbly combined to produce the most riveting true-crime account since In Cold Blood. From her heartbreakingly ironic rifle to her final satisfying “revelation,” Rule guides her readers through a Middle American world of violence and shopping malls, of sexual obsession and pizzas “”to-go,”” of child abuse and music videos…Thus begins this true tale of a modern Medea. His suspicions aroused by Downs’ apparent lack of interest in her children’s survival and by glaring discrepancies in her story, Assistant District Attorney Fred Hugi investigates What he finds will not only have readers gasping in horror but pondering the dark irrationalities lurking in American society as well. What could have been in lesser hands merely a sensationalist 80’s gothic becomes, thanks to Rule’s painstaking research and more-than-considerable literary skills, a work of resonance and revelation. Paced with masterful assurance, incorporating verbatim trial transcripts and diary entries, probing the reactions of the Oregon townspeople, this narrative maintains its breath-stopping tension to the very end. Sure to be talked about for a long time to come.” – Kirkus Reviews
Review by Twinsie Angie
I purchased this audio book.
I am a true crime junkie and sometimes I need something true crime to read or listen too after I have read a bunch of romance novels. Weird? Maybe but I own it. I remember watching this movie when I was a child thinking how can a mom kill her kids?? I just didnt understand at age 10. Well fast forward and here I am a true crimer lover. I had forgotten all about this story/case until a podcast I listen to did an episode on it. I was shocked back to the 10 year old me watching the movie.
Listening to Ann Rule tell the retell this story is kinda crazy. I listened to her tell the Ted Bundy case and Cinnamon brown case. She definitely has a way with words to describe what is happening.
The story is sad but if its about a mom trying to kill her kids I am guessing you already figured that much. I didn’t know some of the information she gave from listening to the podcast. But she does seem to cover the story from the beginning when Diane brings her kids to the ER claiming she was attacked and shot.
If you are a true crimer like me you will appreciate all the details Ann shares with the reader about the police investigation and the trial.
Ann Rule was a popular American true crime writer. Raised in a law enforcement and criminal justice system environment, she grew up wanting to work in law enforcement herself. She was a former Seattle Policewoman and was well educated in psychology and criminology.
She came to prominence with her first book, The Stranger Beside Me, about the Ted Bundy murders. At the time she started researching the book, the murders were still unsolved. In the course of time, it became clear that the killer was Bundy, her friend and her colleague as a trained volunteer on the suicide hotline at the Seattle, Washington Crisis Clinic, giving her a unique distinction among true crime writers.
Rule won two Anthony Awards from Bouchercon, the mystery fans’ organization. She was nominated three times for the Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. She is highly regarded for creating the true crime genre as it exists today.