Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule (July 1988)

Publication Date:
July 1988
Signet Books
$7.99 paperback or $5.99 Kindle

Reviewed by:
On February 20, 2013
Last modified:February 13, 2013


In a word: AWESOME!

Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule
Buy It Not On Amazon

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.)

So anyway…

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:

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12 Responses to “Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule (July 1988)”

  1. Vicki Wood says:

    I think my first would have been “Helter Skelter” which was my Dad’s book. That fueled the true crime bug so I asked him for recommendations. The first of his suggestions I read was “Blood and Money” which you have an article about here. I was hooked by then. The first Ann Rule was of course “The Stranger Beside Me” and then “Dead By Sunset” (fascinating book). Then I read the “bible” of true crime “In Cold Blood”. It truly deserves it’s prestigious place in true crime writing. Incredible.

    I think the first true crime movie I recall watching (though it may not have been, just the one that made a big impression) was “The Deliberate Stranger”–still my favorite true crime biopic. Later the documentaries came in like “Cold Case Files”, “New Detectives”, and the classic “Forensic Files”–oh and can’t forget “American Justice” or anything with Bill Kurtiss narrating.
    After Court TV changed to reality bunk came ID to which I’m hopelessly addicted. I’m now mercilessly afflicted with the true crime obsession. Now I wish I had finished getting the English degree or changed it to journalism to fulfill a dream of being a writer of true crime and other genres.

  2. DizzyBlueBaby says:

    My first true crime was “Helter Skelter” as well. “Small Sacrifices” was my second-after that, I was hooked! Great review of a fascinating book, Kim-thanks!

  3. Kim Cantrell says:

    Ahh, Helter Skelter…another one I need to pull out and read again. Ya know, there’s just something about those old books that can’t be found today. I mean, there’s some good books and all but they’re just not the same as those 70s and 80s ones.

    Nostalgia. Sigh.

    • Vicki Wood says:

      I did purchase an updated printing of it a few years ago and reread. There is an update about some of the people involved, where they are now etc. Clem seems to have made an astounding turnaround and became quite the productive citizen amazingly enough. Curiously, I specifically recall the phrase “This book will scare the hell out of you.” written at the opening, but it is not there in the updated version. Don’t know why, because it still applies.

      Another classic is the controversial “yellow book” by Robert Graysmith called “Zodiac”. Even though there’s a lot of now challenged information in it, it’s still a great read. That’s one of the cases that never ceases to intrigue me. And again, “In Cold Blood” is a must read for true crime junkies. I need to read that one again myself.

      • Kim Cantrell says:

        I remember that phrase being in the beginning of the book. I wonder too why they removed it. It’s still pretty darn scary.

  4. DizzyBlueBaby says:

    Did not realize there was an updated printing of HS-will have to check that out. And I am ashamed to say I have never read the grandaddy of all true crime books-”In Cold Blood”. Definitely on my list of “to read”!!

    • Kim Cantrell says:

      Dizzy, if truth be told, In Cold Blood can’t hold a candle to HS or B&M. But still worth reading if you ever get the chance.

  5. Vicki Wood says:

    You should read it and do a review. I’m sure there are plenty who haven’t read it though they are avid true crime followers. It would be an interesting perspective. Since it is considered the first of the onset of crime nonfiction as a significant book genre it would be interesting to see what you think of it after being sort of an expert on what came after. It’s a chiller as well.

    Capote really did something interesting in that he got to know one of the killers fairly well, so you get an in depth look at the psychology, background and the human element of the perpetrator. I think that’s probably what made the book so compelling–the way he looked at the two sides in a way that perhaps hadn’t been done up until then, at least to the extent he did.

    • Kim Cantrell says:

      Definitely adding HS to my list of rereads.

      For me, ICB was a good read but still can’t compare to HS or B&M or even this of Ann Rule’s. And a lot of info seems to be coming forward that maybe Capote’s info wasn’t on the up and up. To be perfectly honest, though, I haven’t really read up on those claims because I don’t want the story ruined. Not this late in the game.

  6. [...] on the book Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule, this 1989 made-for-television movie became one of the late Farah Fawcett’s most notable [...]

  7. […] not certain. Yet what I can say with certainty is, having just re-read early Ann Rule books like Small Sacrifices and then reading this one, the writing style has changed […]

  8. He visionado un sinfin de veces sobre esfe contenido.
    No resulta bastante original. Un blog-post del monton.

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