Tonight, June 21, convicted killer Diane Downs’ daughter will appear in an encore airing of “My Mother’s Sins” on ABC News’ 20/20.
Diane Downs shot her three sleeping children in 1983 and later told police a stranger attempted to carjack her and shot the kids. In 1984, Downs was convicted and sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years.
In 1987, she managed to escape prison. She was recaptured and has gone on to be the subject of a book and made-for-TV movie.
Where is Diane Downs today? Has she admitted to the killing? Here’s what you need to know:
1. She Was Expelled From Bible College for Promiscuous Behavior
Diane Downs was born on August 7, 1955, in Phoenix, Arizona. The eldest of four children, Downs was raised with conservative values. After high school, she joined the Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College. There, she was expelled for promiscuity, according to Thought Co.
Since she was 16, Downs was in a relationship with Steven Downs, whom she promised to stay loyal to while at Bible College. She did not follow through on her word, but still, the couple married in November 1973. In 1974, Downs gave birth to their first child, Christie. Their second child, Cheryl Lynn, was born in 1975.
Thought Co reports that after the couple moved to Arizona in 1978, Downs began having affairs with her male coworkers. She became pregnant, and in 1979, gave birth to Stephen Daniel “Danny” Downs. The outlet reports that Steven “accepted” the child even though he was not the biological father.
2. She Shot Her Three Children in 1983
In 1983, Downs rushed her three children to an Emergency Room in Oregon, claiming that they had been shot by a “bushy-haired” man, according to Inside Edition.
Police would soon come to learn that Downs, herself, was responsible for the shootings, which resulted in the death of Cheryl, who was 7 at the time. Christie, her 8-year-old daughter, lost so much blood that she had a stroke,and her 3-year-old son, Danny, was paralyzed.
Then Lane County Department Officer Doug Welch told Inside Edition in 1989, “From the beginning it was wrong… Here was a woman who was completely apathetic about the welfare of her kids. She was just emotionally flat and preoccupied with something else.”
Eventually, Downs was arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder. In 1984, she was sentenced to life in prison.
3. Downs Says She Didn’t Do It
Downs’ trial began on May 10, 1984, and lasted six weeks.
Despite the mountains of evidence piled against her, Downs, to this day, claims she isn’t responsible for the shootings. (Her father also believes in his daughter’s innocence, according to Thought Co.)
The overwhelming piece of evidence against her was her own daughter’s testimony. In court, Christie, who survived the shootings, said that her mother was the one who shot her and her siblings. Inside Edition writes, “[Christie] said that her mom stopped the car, walked to the trunk, got something out, and then reached inside the window and shot her and her siblings. Authorities believe that Diane shot herself in the arm after.”
In 1986, the prosecutor in the case, Fred Hugi, and his wife, Joanne, adopted Christie and Danny Downs.
4. She Escaped Prison in 1987
In 1987, Downs escaped prison by scaling the fence while guards weren’t looking, according to Fox News. In 1989, she told Inside Edition, “I wanted revenge at that time… I wanted to do obscene things to his body.” (She said this of the man she claimed shot her children.)
Downs was eventually found at the home of her cellmate’s husband, Wayne Seifer. Seifer tells 20/20, “So I walk downstairs, still a little bit bleary-eyed, and she [Downs] said, ‘Could I stay?’ And I said ‘Why not?’ and I went back upstairs to sleep.”
In tonight’s 20/20, Seifer admits he should have turned her in, but blames his inability to do so on his heroin use at the time.
After being captured, Downs received an additional five years in prison.
Today, she remains in prison. She was denied parole in December 2008 and again in December 2010.
5. Her Youngest Child Will Speak Out in Tonight’s Episode
Tonight’s 20/20 will feature an interview with Diane’s youngest child, Becky Babcock. Babcock was born while Diane was incarcerated. Later, she was adopted by another family.
In a clip from tonight’s episode obtained by People, Babcock shares, “I knew my entire life that I was adopted… I can’t remember a specific time when my mom or dad said ‘you’re adopted.’ But when I was about eight years old, I started asking questions about the adoption. There was just a little part of me that felt like I was searching for something else. I was searching for that blood tie.”
She goes on to say, “The first letter I wrote Diane, I must have written 100 times,” she says. “I was nervous. It was exciting. It was scary. I wanted to relate to her — not as a mother, because I had a mother — just as somebody who felt the pain and the emptiness that I felt in that time.”
Downs reportedly wrote back quickly.
What did the letter say? Do Babcock and Downs continue to stay in contact? Find out on tonight’s episode of ABC News’ 20/20 airing tonight on ABC at 9pm ET/PT>