Elizabeth Diane Downs wouldn’t let anything stand in the way of her affair with a married co-worker...even her three children. So she hitched a cold-blooded plan to get rid of them…
In May 1983, Elizabeth Diane Downs, sped to a hospital emergency room with her three children in the car. Christie, 8, Cheryl, 7, and Danny, 3 were covered in blood. They’d all been shot. Cheryl was already dead and the other two were clinging on for their lives. Danny was paralysed from the waist down and Christie had suffered a stroke which impaired her speech.
Downs had been shot too. She claimed she’d been flagged down by a stranger while driving along a deserted road with her sleeping children. When she stopped and asked him what he wanted, he told her he wanted her car. But when she refused he shot her kids, then shot her in the arm, but she’d luckily survived.
But something didn’t ring true to investigators. Downs was apparently very calm – not the behaviour police expected of a mother whose children had been shot.
They also noted that Downs had been shot on the left arm and was apparently right handed. And they couldn’t understand why an attacker would shoot sleeping children and only wound Downs who was a bigger threat. Meanwhile Christie slowly began to tell police that she’d not seen a male stranger that night.
And the final break in the case came when investigators found Downs’ secret diaries. They told of her obsession and affair with a married man who didn’t want her children around. Had she tried to kill them to get them out of the way?
Months after the shootings Down’s was arrested. By now she was pregnant again. But it didn’t stop her standing trial. And after months of physical and mental therapy, Christie was finally able to take the stand and tell what happened to her that horrible night.
When asked in court if she remembered who shot her, she replied simply: ‘My mom.’ Prosecutors believed Downs saw her kids as a burden and she’d wanted them dead so she could continue her seedy affair.
Downs was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years. After giving birth to a daughter, the baby was taken into care.
In 1987, just three years into her sentence, Downs escaped from the correctional facility in Oregon where she was being held. Within two weeks police had tracked her down to the home of another inmate’s husband just blocks from the prison.
After being recaptured, she was transferred to a more secure facility. She remains in prison in California. She was denied parole in 2008 and continues to proclaim her innocence.