Diane Downs' hearing today has attracted plenty of media attention. A local news station offers video coverage and letters demonstrating that the one-time surrogate mother is sticking to the stranger defense, denying responsibility for her crimes. The woman who once told the Washington Post that abortion was murder, "it's cruel, it's horrible, it's terrible," was convicted of shooting her three children, fatally wounding her daughter Cheryl, 7.
Unfortunately, the coverage is often pretty stupid. Few of the articles actually mention author Ann Rule. Some mention Farrah Fawcett, whose portrayal of the murderess in 1989 made the case even more famous.
The Oregon News even declared that Diane Downs was the first of her kind. It even states: "On May 19, 1983, when Downs shot all three of her children, such crimes were virtually unheard of. Though cases of mothers killing their children have long since filled the headlines, Downs' was among the first. It both horrified and fascinated the nation. "
That is utter nonsense -- the first several executions of females in the United States were for child murders, including but not limited to infanticide. And there have been plenty of other mothers who have intentionally murdered their children before, long before, and since. There are four centuries of murderous mothers to be found in the American annals alone, if one cared to look.
There was nothing about Diane Downs' crime that was particularly distinctive in the annals of crime except for the fact that Ann Rule made the case famous with Small Sacrifices.
(art via Newspaperarchive.com)