Awhile back I did an interview with True Murder host Dan Zupansky and was asked what was the first true crime book I ever read. My answer was Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule, which I realized I had never reviewed because, of course, that was long before my reviewing days.
When I heard Small Sacrifices had recently been re-released by on Kindle, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and read again this book which served as a foundation for what I do today. (Well, that and a first grade teacher who taught me a love of reading.)
Diane Downs was described by many men as sexy and seductive, and by just as many as insanely jealous and possessive – especially true for Lew Lewiston, a fellow mail carrier in Arizona.
Although he was married, Lewiston had been involved in a torrid affair with Diane but had grown weary of her high maintenance personality and the demands she had placed on him. And, truth be told, he just didn’t want to be a father and Diane had three kids. He’d had a vasectomy at age 21 to avoid such.
When, in a last ditch effort to save their relationship, Diane moved to Oregon as an ultimatum to Lewiston to leave his wife, he was relieved.
Soon enough Diane realized her lover wasn’t coming to Oregon, he had chosen his wife over her. Diane was heartbroken and desperate to change Lewiston’s mind.
On May 19, 1983, Diane Downs sped up to the McKenzie-Willamette Hospital, seeking help for her children whom she claimed had been shot by an intended carjacker. Three children would enter the hospital, only two would leave but only after many, many months.
Could Diane have killed her children to lure Lew to Oregon? Would a mother rid herself of children for a man who never wanted to be a father?
Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule tells the story of Diane Downs in such an intense, detailed manner, readers will feel as if they are there in the moment, watching the provocative woman slither her way into many men’s lives and devour them heart and soul; her children are only afterthoughts to her womanly desires – the children she says time and again were born to give her unconditional love.
It may have more than 20 years since I read this book but it’s every bit as awesome today as it was then. Again I found myself unable to put it down, often reading into the wee hours of the morning. Diane Downs is someone, no matter how many times I read her story, I will ever understand. And to this day, I cannot listen to Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf without getting chills and immediately having to turn it off.
While veterans of this genre have undoubtedly already gobbled up this true crime classic, new readers to the genre, or even those who just tip a toe into these nonfictional waters from time to time, most definitely want to read Small Sacrifices – one of the most heartbreaking, rage-inducing stories of all times.
Where Are They Now?
Diane Downs is imprisoned at the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, California. She was denied parole in 2008 and 2010. Her next parole hearing will be in 2020.
Christie Downs still lives in Springfield, Oregon. She is married and a mother. Her daughter’s name is Cheryl.
Danny Downs, despite his paralysis, participated on his high school swim team before graduating in 1997. Having completed college, he continues to reside in Springfield, Oregon.
A memorial page is maintained for Cheryl Lynn Downs at Find A Grave.
Willadene and Wesley Frederickson moved to Texas after the State of Oregon sued them over the publication of the book Diane Downs: Best Kept Secrets, which lists Diane as the author and is self-published by a corporation created by Wes. Said book is nothing more than the dribble found on the website maintained by Wes wherein he proclaims to have proof his daughter is innocent.
At last report, Steve Downs was living in Oregon.
No updated information could be found for Robert Knickerbocker (the real name of Lew Lewiston) or his wife.
The daughter who was born to Diane while she was in prison came forward publicly in 2010. Her name is Rebecca Babcock. She has appeared on Oprah, 20/20, and various other news magazine shows. During these interviews, Becky says she had contact with her birth mother in prison but soon realized she too was a tool for Diane to use and has stopped all contact. Good for you, Becky!
In 1989, a made-for-television movie based on Ann Rule’s book and bearing the same title was produced starring Farah Fawcett as Diane Downs, becoming one of the actresses most notable roles. You can watch a recorded-direct-from-television version below: