Diane Downs decides to testify at her parole hearing

Diane Downs decides to testify at her parole hearing

Credit: Pat Dooris

Downs appeared via video at her parole hearing, but said she would not take part.

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by Associated Press & KGW Staff

NWCN.com

Posted on December 10, 2010 at 10:46 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 5:01 AM

SALEM, Ore. -- Convicted Oregon child killer Diane Downs appeared via video at her parole hearing Friday morning and said she would testify, after all.

Downs maintained her innocence during the hearing, again claiming, "My kids and I were sitting at home watching Helen Keller. Someone called to come pick up pictures for my boyfriend Rick. He claimed to be an FBI agent."

She added, "I received the phone call at 9:15. I piled the kids in the car. We went out to pick up the photographs."

She then went into a detailed description of the trip out to meet the alleged FBI impostor.

Somebody in the road flagged us down," she continued. "I stopped and got out of the car; he said something to the effect of, 'I want your car.'"

Downs said the man then quickly leaned into the car and started shooting.

"Christy and Danny were in the back seat, still crying," she added.

She accused the state of Oregon of saying she wanted her kids dead. But, she added, "There are other ways to commit such a horrific deed. I’m not dumb."

Downs had said before the hearing that she would not participate in the hearing. Parole board officials said the hearing would proceed without her, if necessary.

She had said before the hearing that she would not participate in the hearing. Parole board officials said the hearing would proceed without her, if necessary.

Downs made the same threat in 2008 when she was first eligible for release. But then she took part in the hearing.

This hearing will take place in Salem, but Downs can testify via video from Chowchilla, Calif., where she is imprisoned at the Valley State Prison for Women.

"We are having a hearing with or without Miss Downs," said Jeremiah Stromberg, executive director of the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision.

The Oregonian reports Downs has written two recent letters to the board, including one Nov. 30 saying she won't be at the hearing. In that letter--also obtained by KGW--she called for her release, saying, "I've never resorted to violence."

More: Nov. 30 letter to parole board

That 12-page letter is handwritten by Downs. It ends, "there is no reason to keep me in prison and I pray for an order paroling me."

Convicted in 1984, Downs is serving a life sentence plus 55 years for murdering her 7-year-old daughter and severely wounding her 8-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son on a rural road outside Springfield. She has said the children were shot by a carjacker.

Prosecutors said her motive was an affair with a married man who rejected her children. Her case inspired the Ann Rule book "Small Sacrifices."

Her recent letter revealed details of a sealed psychological report. Downs objects to the doctor's evaluation of her as intolerant, subject to "stifled anger" and "worse off now than (she) was in 2008."

She also complained about being moved among cells and separated from other inmates for her own protection.

Downs, 55, wrote that it's stressful "when Ann Rule's movie comes on TV and people want to kill me."

And her letter included a fantasy about how she would react if she were free and recognized on the street: "I'd just say, 'I'm not Diane Downs. I know I look a little like her. But doesn't she have real deep crow's feet?"'

In two other letters to the parole board, written Oct. 20 and Dec. 3, Downs rambles on about Rebecca Babcock, with whom she was pregnant during her murder trial.

More: Dec. 3 letter to parole board

More: Oct. 21 letter to parole board

Glamour Magazine featured Babcock's story earlier this year. Downs said in the letters that Babcock approached her about maternity but refused requests for DNA confirmation.

Downs said Babcock is not her daughter but the child-killer made an eerie comparison to the murder of her own children. Babcock is about the same age at which Downs said a shaggy-haired stranger killer her children.

With a child about the same age, Downs is convinced Babcock is now targeted for murder.

When the board denied her parole in 2008, Downs had the right to a new hearing two years later. But an Oregon law that went into effect in January gives the board authority to make an inmate wait a decade between hearings.

A prosecutor wants the board to make use of that law in Downs' case. Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner singled her out in a recent letter to the parole board, saying that "offenders such as Downs are precisely why" the law was amended by the 2009 Legislature, the Statesman Journal reported.

"Downs is well aware of the likelihood that she will never be paroled. As such, she has used the parole hearings process as a means of publicizing her latest revelations and conspiracy accusations, rather than as a means of seeking rehabilitation," he said.

At her first parole hearing in 2008, Downs provided baffling testimony, portraying herself as the victim of conspirators out to get her and her family. The board ruled that she still posed a danger to society and must remain in prison.

Gardner is urging the board to refuse parole for Downs again and suspend any further parole consideration for a decade.

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