Diane Downs
Photo: The Register-Guard
It was an unthinkable, brutal killing in 1983 that terrified parents around the country. A mother was driving one night down a rural road in Oregon when her three children, who were asleep in the car, were shot at point-blank range by a stranger in the dark. At least, that's the story Diane Downs told police. What really happened is almost too horrific to imagine.

Diane said a shaggy-haired stranger flagged down her car on the night of May 19, 1983, and after what she claimed was a botched carjacking attempt, the man shot her three sleeping children. As she tried to flee, Diane said he also shot her in the forearm.

Diane told police she pushed the man away and sped to the nearest hospital—but a witness testified she was driving less than 10 miles an hour.

By the time Diane arrived at the hospital, her 7-year-old daughter, Cheryl, was dead. Eight-year-old Christie had lost so much blood she suffered a stroke, and 3-year-old Danny was left paralyzed.

Police said Diane's story never added up. Then, at the trial, Diane's surviving daughter, Christie, took the witness stand and testified that her mother was the shooter.

Diane was convicted of shooting her children, killing one and critically wounding the others. She was sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years.