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May-20-2013 03:24printcommentsVideo

EXCLUSIVE: Diane Downs Never Held a Weapon, How Could She Have Shot Her Kids?

Though her appeals are used up, Downs' advocates have unearthed 4700 pages of evidence the prosecution did not share during the trial.

Diane Downs and her brother James Frederickson
Diane Downs and her brother James Frederickson photographed 19 May 2013, 30 years to the day after the fateful shooting.

(EUGENE, OR) - A fact (derived from the Latin factum) is something that has really occurred or is actually the case. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability, that is whether it can be proven to correspond to experience. Standard reference works are often used to check facts. Scientific facts are verified by repeatable experiments.

Diane with Danny, Christie and Cheryl

It's hard to say exactly what convicted Diane Downs in the shooting of her children, a terrible event that played out on a dark night exactly 30 years ago, in 1983. If one word plays into the scenario over and over, it is "emotion" and that is indeed a raw, powerful determiner of guilt in many cases, sometimes appropriately, sometimes not.

The most glaring problem with the case according to Diane's brother, James Frederickson, is the fact that there was no evidence connecting Diane Downs to the shooting[1].

Strong statement? Yes it is, but it is true, and it is also true that a great deal of evidence beyond the ballistic tests caused investigators to be aware that Downs had not fired the weapon. They knew, but one of the prosecutors wanted to adopt Downs' two remaining children, and the other was under federal investigation for his connections to underground members of the drug trade. They had to convict her.

Ballistic Results Should Have Cleared Downs

Note blood splatter on the headliner of Downs' actual car, a Nissan Pulsar.

Ballistic tests indicated that Downs did not hold or fire a gun that fateful night. The case against her is one of extenuated circumstances, suppositions, and a defense attorney who appears to have been unwilling to properly defend his client.

When a person fires a gun, certain elements are "blown back" at the shooter. These include gunpowder and, if the round was fired as close as these were, blood and tissue particles. Tests conducted in the hours following the shooting, indicated that Diane Downs had not fired a weapon that night, it really is that simple. In many investigations, the case would have ended right there and taken off in a different direction, but not in the Diane Downs case.

Not surprisingly, James Frederickson and his father, Wes Frederickson, have had a great deal of contact with people related to the case that began thirty years ago on this day. Many have shared evidence and statements that helped the family understand what might have actually happened. However a large number of people who have contacted the Frederickson believe Diane Downs is profoundly guilty of this crime. That traces back to "Small Sacrifices," the book and subsequent multi-million dollar movie by author Ann Rule.

Guilt by Association

Ann Rule, author of "Small Sacrifices" about Diane Downs.

Just simply having Ann Rule at the trial gave the event a celebrity status, explains Eric Mason, a private investigator who spent more than 30 years in Oregon as an award-winning reporter and news investigator. Mason, who specializes today in helping overturn false convictions, did attend Downs' trial as a reporter and he agrees that there are a number of issues with the case against her.

If there is one obvious fact about Ann Rule, it is that she is pro-police all the way. Rule investigates suspects and criminals, but she does little in the way of questioning anything to do with the police. Therefore her choice to attend the month-long trial of Diane Downs was obviously, as it turned out to be, another exercise in demonizing a murderer while making heroes out of the police.

What kind of murderer shoots her victims and then shoots herself, and then drives to the hospital in record time without having any sign of having fired a gun?

In fact I found it quite interesting (and disappointing) to learn in recent days that Rule condemned this woman to a life behind bars, but never interviewed her. I had to ask for clarity, I could hardly believe that an author of her background would do this with zero personal information from the suspect herself? I was dumbfounded.

Ann Rule celebrates the good actions of police in her writings, but this is only warranted when the police are honest and forthright. It is unbelievable how much debris is dragging along behind this case. It saddens me that any investigator could have played along and remained deaf and dumb with so much overwhelming evidence in Downs' favor.

The following was written by the late Dr. Thomas A Billings. Dr Billings gained his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Oregon. He was the second National Director of the Upward Bound and Community Action Programs in the Office of Economic Opportunity in the late 1960's where he received an Accolade Extraordinaire for his Upward Bound leadership. Among his most cherished achievements were Outstanding Teacher of The Year awards from both Sacramento State College and Western Washington University where he taught until his retirement in 1993.

    ...the tragedy has gone Hollywood and the TRUTH is now buried under a mountain of California hype and Hollywood promos. While the prosecuting attorney, Fred Hugi (who adopted Diane’s Children), protests this savage Hollywood blitz on the TRUTH, Ann Rule is quoted in the Eugene Register-Guard as saying: “I feel upset that the Hugi family is upset. I’ve done everything I can to play fair, but I’d have to be more of a saint than I am not to want the story to sell in Hollywood.” Ann Rule writer of DETECTIVE FICTION, friend of mass murderer, Ted Bundy, now makes millions exploiting this pathetic tragedy, while she rides rough shod over all human delicacy and decency. Never mind the hapless children – Christie and Danny Downs – or the Frederickson family and never mind Diane in her prison cell in New Jersey. There’s MONEY to be made! Big Bucks! Not truth. Not justice. Not simple decency. MONEY!! And fame and fortune for the writer of DETECTIVE FICTION, Ann Rule.
    - 2003{2}

Testifying for Fred

Christie Downs

Months after the shooting took place, Downs' surviving daughter testified against her. Many believe the girl was conditioned to provide the "right" testimony. Children are impressionable and their thoughts can be molded. The prosecutor in the case, Fred Hugi, adopted the children, Christie and Danny, and made them his own.

Danny Downs

To this day I can not find a similar occurrence. It is more than a conflict of interest.

The prosecutor who chooses to adopt children, certainly can't allow their mother to be found innocent, or he would be forced to return the children he had selected to be his own. That is how human beings work, and why such conflicts of nature are not allowed, except in this case.

The damning part in all of it, is that the boy, Danny, witnessed the shooting also, and he stated repeatedly to the nurses at the hospital after the shooting, "Why did that mean man shoot me?", and this was not allowed in court. Surely it would have caused doubt in the minds of the jurors.

There are actually a number of people who have worked on the case who believe Downs did not shoot her children that night. One is Wendy Willis, an Oregon attorney who represented Downs during an appeal.

Record Speed


One item about the case that stands out, is the fact that Diane Downs drove her children to the hospital, effectively saving two of their lives. Media reports describe Downs' gunshot to the arm as "minor" and that is completely wrong. Downs had the bone in her arm shattered by the bullet that struck her. Yet she managed to wrap a towel around her arm, something the prosecution described as having been "folded perfectly" - and slow her children's bleeding enough to keep two of them alive.

What kind of murderer shoots her victims and then shoots herself, and then drives to the hospital in record time without having any sign of having fired a gun?

A witness said he followed Downs' car driving 5 m.p.h. on a country road, near the location of the shooting that night. Apparently the driver could not pass and was stuck behind Downs' slow moving Nissan Pulsar for a period of time. However, based upon the time that driver cited, Downs delivered her children to the hospital in a time that would have indicated her driving at very high speed after having driven at 5 m.p.h..

Something about that part of the case seems very hard to understand. If she was driving slow, that meant, according to those trying to convict Downs, that she was trying to let her children 'bleed out' and die before arrival, but instead two of the three reached care fast enough to survive extremely serious, life-threatening gunshot wounds.

That delivery seems very inconsistent with the actions of a murderer. If Downs meant to kill her children, it seems illogical that she would have taken them to the hospital. As noted, Diane Downs was also seriously injured.

So Who Did it?

Several people who knew James Haynes signed affidavits
stating he had admitted shooting Downs and her children.

According to a number of witnesses, a man names James Haynes in the Junction City, Oregon area, confessed to having made the "hit" on the Downs family. Why would this have happened?

Prior to the event involving Downs, federal investigators were very curious about a prosecutor in Lane County, Oregon named Pat Horton, who had prosecuted drug crimes involving bikers. According to reports, Downs was being coaxed by a federal prosecutor to gather evidence on Horton.

Once Downs was observed doing this, the 'enforcer' for the local drug ring, James Haynes, was sent to kill Downs and her family for $25,000. People close to the case believe Horton set the whole thing up, but the gun ultimately jammed, and Downs was left alive.

Haynes, who has a spectacular criminal record, seems to have had an angel over his shoulder during the early 1980's.

Amazingly, he just seemed to stop getting arrested while Horton was running things, then after Horton stopped working as a prosecutor, Haynes again became the subject of arrests and police attention.

We have a 75-page printout on Haynes' record. With a nickname of 'Animal' and a reputation for being a very dangerous man who held guns to the heads of his friends, Haynes had little loyalty from those around him. One of his best friends and at least two of his family members said Haynes shot Downs and her children.

His friend Clayton Nysten filed the following affidavit because he was disturbed that Haynes would have shot children:

    In around 1983, Haynes and I were at a drug house for Haynes to pick up some dope. While Haynes and I were waiting for the deal to happen, a blond woman came into the house with another woman, and walked straight to a back room where the deals were taking place. The blond woman seemed brash and full of herself. Haynes and I waited and heard a loud argument between the drug dealer and the woman. The woman was being told in very strong terms that she should not have gone waltzing into that room. I later realized, after I heard about the Downs case on television and in the paper that the blond woman I had seen was Diane Downs. I also saw Downs again once or twice at other places where drug dealing was taking place. I think that Downs was buying drugs for her personal use.

    Then, in the summer of 1983, 1 heard on the television about the Downs family being shot. The newspaper also had a story about the shooting and a composite picture of the man that Downs said had done it. My first thought after seeing the paper was that the composite looked very much like Jim Haynes. The day after the shooting, in the morning, I went to see Jim at his place in Springfield. When I arrived at the house, I met with Jim in the bedroom he liked to call his "office." He was sitting there with the Eugene Register Guard folded on his bed with the composite picture face up. The composite looked just like Mr. Haynes. Jim was dressed in clean clothes and was clean shaven. It was very unusual to see Haynes like that because normally he wore grubby clothes and went unshaven. I told him about the Downs shooting but he did not say anything. I asked Jim whether he had read the paper or seen anything about the shooting. He said "No," which I thought was odd because the paper was there on the bed.

    The paper also mentioned an older model yellow car being at the shooting site. Haynes had a number of different older model cars back then, and one of them was yellow.

    The day after that, I saw Haynes again, and he then told me he was the one who had shot the Downs family. Jim said that Downs had been to another place where she had seen drug payoffs taking place and it was because of that, and the fact that she had been warned before. I think he was talking about the earlier time when I saw her at Lionel Johnson's house and she went into the back room. Haynes never told me about the exact details of it but I understand that Jim had arranged with Downs for her to stop the car on that road and buy drugs from him.
    (see: Affidavit of Clayton Nysten)


As a district attorney, Horton was the subject of many reports, and they were not all good. After prosecuting bikers, he became their defense attorney.

Karen McCowan with The Register-Guard in Eugene wrote, "After 12 colorful years as Lane County’s district attorney, Pat Horton opted not to seek a fourth term back in 1984, citing in part “never resolved” budget issues, political controversies and battles with 'antagonists' of the office."{3}

In the article "Former deputy district attorney's conduct reviewed in four cases", Bill Bishop, reporter with The Register Guard, wrote, "The Oregon State Bar has disciplined 10 prosecutors in the past 20 years for ethical violations, according to bar records."{4}

Considering the hundreds of thousands of cases against Oregon residents, that number seems very low.

As a reporter, I was personally notified by the Oregon Attorney General's Office under former AG John Kroger, that the AG was not interested in investigating the practices of the state's prosecutors. This, even though I was bringing forward information that could have led to charges of official misconduct and more. Oregon does have a long running reputation of taking care of its own - a select few who remain aloof and above the law while people like Diane Downs can only dream of justice.

An article by Franz Kurz for People Against Prison Abuse, cites the connection between the man many believe committed the crime against Downs, James Haynes and the prosecutor Pat Horton.

    All concerns have been presented earlier to the administration and the judicial authorities by the late Thomas A. Billings Ph.D. and me. Even when in 1994, several witnesses presented affidavits that someone else, a certain James Claire Haynes, was publicly boasting of the crime, and when at last documents turned up that had been kept from the defense, the State of Oregon made no move to reopen the case in order to rehabilitate the credibility of the judicial system and bring the real murderer to justice. LCDA Pat Horton, Fred Hugi’s boss, known in the [drug] scene as “Snortin’ Horton” had an obvious interest in eliminating Diane Downs and had found out about it: “James Claire Haynes was paid $25,000 by then LCDA Horton to shoot the Downs family.” This was an event that originated in the drug scene and ended in criminal behavior on the part of state jurists.[5]

Oregon is seething with questionable convictions and the corruption here connects to the murder of former Oregon Corrections Chief Michael Francke, who was hired to rid Oregon's prisons of corruption, and murdered two days before giving testimony that would have ended the careers of many officials. The Francke case defines the ethics of Oregon government throughout the entire nation[6] {7}.

I think Ann Rule should explain why Diane Downs didn't have any sign of having fired a gun.

This is a brand new video from Salem-News.com that features Tim King interviewing James Fredrickson, Diane Downs' brother, and Eric Mason, award-winning reporter-turned-private investigator.

Video interview edited by Jerry Freeman

References:

[1] DIANE DOWNS: MURDERER OR VICTIM

{2} A MIDNIGHT MEDITATION The Tragedy of Diane Downs - midnightmeditations.com

{3} Former DA takes on jobs he loves - Pat Horton has retired from a variety of positions

{4} Former deputy district attorney's conduct reviewed in four cases

[5] Letter to Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski - peopleagainstprisonabuse.com

[6] Diane Downs: Child Killer or Victim of Injustice? - Tim King Salem-News.com

{7} Getting Refamiliarized with the Murder of Michael Francke - Tim King Salem-News.com

_________________________________________




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äpəˈziSH(ə)n February 17, 2017 1:30 pm (Pacific time)

You should see the all the letters Diane wrote to Becky. They are pure insanity. Diane is as deranged as a cat who eats her kittens upon birthing them. She will never be released. Thank you god. Thank you Oregon.


M Merr January 17, 2017 1:06 pm (Pacific time)

You didn't tell the truth right off the bat in the inset. She did NOT drive herself and her kids to the hospital in "record time". She was followed for a good distance by someone in another car who said she was driving so slowly that it didn't register on the speedometer.

EDITOR: That is hearsay, but if you can substantiate  with more than a statement from a fictionalized book, please forward to us and we will consider altering our information. Otherwise, the facts stand as is.  


JoyAnne December 27, 2015 3:09 pm (Pacific time)

She's guilty--the truth is eternal. Bet if she thought she could actually get parole, she would 'fess up and get all remorseful.


James December 2, 2015 11:19 am (Pacific time)

and to Becky the Nurses said Diane did NOT wash her hands, and more importantly use a logical brain.... Her arm was shattered bent back in the opposite direction, it was not physically possible to wash her hands.


James December 2, 2015 11:18 am (Pacific time)

I have to comment on the Anonymous person who said their friend was the lead forensics investigator. I HAVE THE FILES THEY USED. There is no NONE ZERO physical evidence that shows anything except innocent.


Kat September 25, 2015 4:17 pm (Pacific time)

wasn't there a bloody towel found in the car? She could have very easily wrapped the towel around her hand and the gun ala "The Godfather" shooting of the Black Hand - and whalah - no powder residue!


Immadiyah July 13, 2015 12:48 pm (Pacific time)

Clayton Nysten's affidavit mentioned about the paper mentioning an older model yellow car being at the shooting site. But I had not read any mention of such in all other sources concerning this case. Can you provide a link to the source of this paper? Did the police found it still parking there at the shooting site? What did the police do with it? Did they run a forensic test on it, since nothing was ever mentioned about it in every other sources.


anonymous April 24, 2015 1:31 am (Pacific time)

I grew up in Eugene and our good friend was the lead forensics investigator on this case. I can tell you assuredly that Diane Downs did without a doubt shoot her children and herself. I cannot believe you call yourself a journalist. It wasn't her demeanor that convicted her, it was the overwhelming forensic evidence that the shooting could not have happened as she described.


Marie March 14, 2015 1:38 pm (Pacific time)

Bullshit is this blog actually defending her? She's as guilty as OJ.


Anonymous February 18, 2015 5:37 pm (Pacific time)

Pretty much the most incredibly stupid article I've ever read in my life. A drug ring? A hit on Diane and her family? My God! What a load.


sam October 23, 2014 10:17 am (Pacific time)

Man, they will print anything these days. For the sake of argument for this hack job of a "story", here's my take: 1. she wore gloves (duh!) 2. she stopped to wash her hands (which would account for her delay getting to the ER)


Becky August 5, 2014 8:17 pm (Pacific time)

You absolutely CAN wash off GSR. Or everyone who ever fired a gun would still have it on their hands. This is ridiculous. She is a disgusting killer. No question.


Becky August 5, 2014 8:15 pm (Pacific time)

Anyone who buys that Diane Downs didn't shoot her children are ridiculous. There was no gunfire residue because she washed her hands at the hospital. Did the nurses there lie about that that same night guessing that Fred Hugi would get assigned the case and then want to adopt the children (who may or may not survive) years later? Get a grip. It would be wonderful if no mother would ever hurt her children but unfortunately this is the real world where these things DO happen.


Anonymous January 10, 2014 2:23 pm (Pacific time)

IF this James Haynes did the shooting, then where is he now???????????? my guess is that he is dead. anybody know where he is today?

He died very recently and it is our strong regret not to have reached him first.


Alexandra January 3, 2014 3:32 pm (Pacific time)

Seems to me the only thing Diane was guilty of is loose morals. Like Scott Peterson (I believe he too was railroaded). Our justice system is a joke and a sick one at that.


gina December 22, 2013 8:26 am (Pacific time)

Hugi adopting, wanting to adopt the kids, does nothing to sway me that it was a bogus conviction, this man and his wife were described as people who, the last thing they wanted in life was children, I can't see his desire to grow 'overnight' to have a family. Christie is what 38 now, plenty of room and time as an adult to set the record straight if she was 'brainwashed'. This has nothing to do with reaching for straws ( hugi, Ann Rule, no gunpowder--which she had ample time to wash off)If she didn't shoot the gun, Christie would of said something by now, it revolves around her, it always did..the jury believed her, eyewitness...the end.

It would have been impossible to wash off, according to science.  Plus she raced them to the hospital, hardly the act of a person trying to terminate lives.  I will never say Downs is a good person, and she had a spinning moral compass, but there is more to this and we are working on it, the ballistics, lack of blood spray, these are indisputable.  It is easy to believe the mainstream, just consider what I am saying, thanks.


Anonymous December 20, 2013 3:04 pm (Pacific time)

The truth can be found in BLDG. #7 or was it #8?


Rose December 16, 2013 10:40 pm (Pacific time)

Come on Ann Rule did not convict Diane, a jury did. I am sick of people trying to free her. Now a biker did it. May she rot in hell.


jim. May 23, 2013 3:14 pm (Pacific time)

Diane delivered my mail in cottage grove when this happened.Always believed she wouldnt harm her kids.My friends in law enforcement in another county opened my eyes to some of things lane county courts have gotten away with.


experienced May 23, 2013 2:51 pm (Pacific time)

I lived in Eugene when the incident occured. At the time, the public became convinced that Diane was guilty because of her demeanor. This, of course, should not have been a driving force for conviction (because demeanor is not evidence) but I got the impression that it was central to the evolution of the case. The allegations presented in your article reinforce that impression. Politics came into play in this very emotionally charged case. The prosecutor's intent to adopt the children was recognized as improper at the time but no action was taken because anyone who objected risked being identified as someone who was interfering with the prosecution of a presumably heinous killer.


Anna Goodman May 22, 2013 4:20 pm (Pacific time)

I've read the book, I've seen the movie, and now my head hurts. I looked into this and it is true, there were no signs of Downs' having fired a gun. Flabergasted, how did this happen? And the prosecutor adopted the kids, that is such a bizarre twist to all of this. And what of the author Ann Rule, why would she have not interviewed Diane Downs? I thought she had credibility and now I can't convince myself that anything she has written is true. This is a sad thing to learn.


Steve Frederickson May 22, 2013 3:32 pm (Pacific time)

Thank you Tim King for having the courage to write about corruption in Oregon government. It seems that few people would take that risk for fear of what could happen to them. Diane is my cousin and I am now and always have been confident that she is innocent. For more information on this case, go to www.dianedowns.com

Tim King: Thank you very much Steve.  The story really tells itself, I hope people take the time to visit the site Steve listed, the information is out there for those who care to look.


James May 22, 2013 8:28 am (Pacific time)

Mason mentions in the video that her attorney's defense strategy was not to prepare a defense.


Ralph E. Stone May 21, 2013 5:24 am (Pacific time)

I assume that Ms. Downs had a competent attorney at her trial and on appeal. Yet, nothing is said about his or her representation of Ms. Downs.

Very good point Ralph, this is almost a subject in and of itself.  The attorney's name is James Jagger, he had been an Oregon prosecutor for many years, and was six months out of that role when he took Diane's case.  This in fact was Jagger's first criminal defense case.  I will expand in a separate article, the Jagger element is a big one in this saga.  There are good lawyers in this story, including the last one who represented Diane's appeal, however they have not been able to do much.      


Robin Wendt May 20, 2013 3:55 pm (Pacific time)

Wow, what a story, what a mind-blowing revelation... I hope you are able to bring this woman relief from her three decades of incarceration. I can't believe they got her without a ballistic test, but I get the sense from this article that these things are not terribly unusual in the great state of "Oregon" USA.  You yanks need all the help you can get.

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