Ann Rule wrote mediocre books, good books, and excellent books. This is one of the excellent ones.
It makes an interesting companion to The Stranger Beside Me; Diane Downs is strongly reminiscent of Ted Bundy, even down to the chameleon quality they share; just as with Bundy, any two photographs of Diane Downs might, on a casual glance, seem to be of two completely different people. And, of course, like Bundy, Downs is a sociopath.
(There are a lot of different words to describe people like Bundy and Downs. "Evil" is one. "Antisocial personality disorder," "psychopath," and "narcissist" are others. Downs isn't quite the same sort of sociopath as Bundy; he was, as he himself admitted, addicted to murder, and in a particularly sexual way. Downs simply doesn't care whether, in removing obstacles to her goals, she kills people.)
It's not 100% clear why Downs shot her three children, killing one daughter, very nearly killing the other, and paralyzing her son. The prosecution's best theory was that she thought that, if her children were dead, the object of her sexual obsession would agree to divorce his wife and marry her. Downs herself pointed out that the man, who had been her lover and who she was riding the ragged edge of stalking, was a man who hated fuss and bother, and the attack on her children created a huge dramatic fuss that he was (in point of fact) repelled by.
Downs also has, in the language of the DSMIII, a Histrionic Personality Disorder (to go with Narcissistic and Antisocial), meaning basically that she needs always to be the center of attention and creates drama around herself to ensure that that stays true. My guess, after reading this book, is:
(1) Her children, as they grew older, were becoming less and less the pure sources of unconditional love that she craved (I think it's significant that the child she shot first, the child she made sure was dead, was Cheryl, her least favorite child, her whippingboy childdead Cheryl complied with her mother's fantasies much more satisfactorily than living Cheryl had ever been able to; it's also telling that she insisted that her son would be able to walk again through the power of her loveif she was just given access to himas if she could take away her actions with "love").
(2) As the prosecutor at her trial pointed out, in her head, children were fungible: interchangeable parts. She aborted one baby, but balanced that out with the child she bore as a surrogate mother; she killed Cheryl, but balanced that with the child she got pregnant with just before she was arrested, whom she was planning to name Charity Lynn until her conviction for Cheryl Lynn's murder convinced her that was a bad idea. (She named the baby Amy Elizabeth; the child was adopted, named Rebecca Babcock, and made a lot of headlines in 2010 with the story of how she discovered just who her biological mother was). Just like Downs thought she could cure her son's paralysis with "love," loving the baby in her uterus somehow was supposed to wipe out the antiloving destruction of the previous child.*
(3) Because she was a sociopath and didn't fully understand how other people's emotions worked, she did think that, without the children, she might be able to get her stalkee back.
(4) She saw a chance to be the ultimate center of attention, to be the Heroic Young Mother and the GriefStricken Parent at the same time, sort of like cashing all your Munchausen's by Proxy chips in at once.
Most of her reasons were bad reasons, but that doesn't mean they weren't her motive.
The other reason to compare Small Sacrifices and The Stranger Beside Me is Rule's attitude toward her subject. When she wrote TSBM, she didn't understand what being a sociopath meant (she says so herself in one of the innumerable afterwords, forewords, and updates that surround the main text in the 2009 paperback); she thought Bundy was mentally ill, which he was not. Sociopaths are sane by both legal and medical definitions; they understand perfectly that what they're doing is breaking the law and going against societal codes, but that just makes them enjoy it more. They completely lack any internalization of societal codes, just as they completely lack empathy, the ability to comprehend another person's feelings as you comprehend your own. A commenter on my review of The Gates of Janus: Serial Killing and Its Analysis left a link to this blogpost about psychopaths and rules (remember that "psychopath" and "sociopath" are words for the same condition; I prefer "sociopath," because "psychopath" leads by connotation and popular usage to Psycho , which is just unhelpful). That study is fascinating, and shows exactly the difference between conscience (internalized societal code) and rules (purely external). I don't think the blogger is right when they say, "I really don't think psychopaths have a choice about being bad, because in order to chose not to be bad, you need to understand what 'bad' is." And I disagree because sociopaths understand extremely well that what they are doing is breaking the rules. For proof, I offer the number of sociopaths (e.g. Donald Harvey (who was beaten to death earlier this year, thirty years into his 28 life sentences)) who do extremely well in prison environments, where all the rules are spelled out and enforced. Sociopaths can choose to follow the rules; they just have to be given a cogent enough reason for doing so. So, no, while they don't have an internalized sense of either ethics or moralsand I agree, must find both, especially "morality," confusingthat doesn't mean that they don't know that what they're doing is wrong. They know, they just don't care. Or, even worse, it gives them pleasure to get away with breaking the rules, which you can see in the homicidal careers of a number of sociopaths, including Bundy, Ridgway, and Brady.
Okay, wow, long digression. My point is that when she wrote TSBM, Rule didn't understand the difference between socio/psychopathy and psychosis, and I don't think she ever fully managed to integrate the signifier of her friend Ted Bundy with the signified of Ted Bundy the serial killer and necrophile (Rule does not talk about his necrophilia). Which is absolutely 100% not a slam. I don't think I could do it, either. But she has no such difficulty with Diane Downs (just as she has no such difficulty with Gary Ridgway); she is very clear that Downs is a chameleon, a gifted mimic who can imitate feelings she neither experiences nor understands. And who is baffled and infuriated when other people don't operate according to her rules (which you also see in Bundy, who kept trying to push emotional buttons long after they had stopped working). So one of the things Rule achieves in Small Sacrifices is working through the contradictions that she could never resolve in her understanding of Ted Bundy. And she's able to loathe Downs wholeheartedly in a way she could never do with Bundy. (To be clear, I think both Downs and Bundy are deserving of wholehearted loathing. Understanding them is not the same as condoning or forgiving what they did.)
Rule's ability to tell a story shines throughout Small Sacrifices, which is absorbing and full of narrative tension, even when you know how the whole thing turned out. And her portrait, in Diane Downs, of a sociopath is riveting.
*I am adamantly prochoice. And I don't think children are fungible. I'm trying to describe Downs' thought process, not my own. Feels weird to rate a true crime book about a woman who tried to murder her three kids with a "I really liked it". But I was very interested in the story and thought it well written and very balanced between the legal side and the emotional side. As someone who likes to learn about the human psych this was hard to put down. Not sure if there is a more diverse, strange person to study then Diane Downs. This lady is nuts! And even so, even so I could not help the tiny voice in the back of my mind asking what if she did not do it? I think that is a testament at how fairly written this book is. The author makes no secret that she believes Downs did the crime but she lays all the evidence in front of us as if we are the jurors and I liked that. Even with that tiny voice that still won't be quiet I believe she did indeed shoot her kids and made up a horrible story to cover it up. I think that she probably now even believes the lies she has told for so many years. Cannot believe something so horrible could happen, but things like this happen every single day. My heart goes out to the kids that survived and hope they were somehow able to lead happy, normal lives. [Free E-pub] ⚖ Small Sacrifices: A True Story of Passion and Murder ♸ Small Sacrifices A True Story Of Passion AndNotRetrouvez Small Sacrifices A True Story Of Passion And Murder Et Des Millions De Livres En Stock SurAchetez Neuf Ou D Occasion Small Sacrifices VHS Farrah Fawcett, Ryan O NealSmall Sacrifices VHS Farrah Fawcett, Ryan O Neal, Gordon Clapp, John Shea, Emily Perkins, Garry Chalk, Ken James, Sean McCann, Garwin Sanford, Tom Butler, ElanSmall Sacrifices TV Mini SeriesIMDb With Farrah Fawcett, Ryan O Neal, Gordon Clapp, John Shea A Peculiar And Disturbing Case Catches The Attention Of The Police When A Young Mother And Her Children, All Severely Injured, Show Up In A Hospital S Emergency Room Small Sacrifices On A Tu Mes Enfants Spin OffSmall SacrificesFarrah Fawcett Ryan O Neal On The Th Of MayDiane Downs Stops At The McKenzie Williamette Hospital And Cries For Help She Is Wounded On Her Arm And Her Three Children Are Also Wounded Seriously She Says That ASmall Sacrifices Topic YouTube Small Sacrifices Is AAmerican Made For Television Crime Drama Film Written By Joyce Eliason And Based On The Best Selling True Crime Book By Ann Rule O 4.5 Stars
Diane Downs is one of the most horrifying murderers I've ever read about. Not only was her crime heinous but add to that her total lack of conscious. Diane Downs is a truly evil "human being".
On the night of May 19 1983 a woman drives to the hospital emergency room, screaming that she had been attacked by a "Shaggy haired man". The woman was suffering from a gunshot wound to the arm but the nursing staff also noticed that in the car lay 2 critically injured children. A little girl and a boy a toddler who appeared to have been shot, both were in bad shape. Rushing to try to save them the mother informs them that she has 3 kids and they go back to the car and find another little girl Cheryl 7 years old is unfortunately already dead.
And so begins a wild tale of murder, sexual abuse, and mental health. Diane Downs a 28 year old mother shot her 3 kids point blank killing one, paralysing another, and leaving the third with life long injuries. Diane Downs is one of the scariest types of killer, because she's smart, attractive and incapable of understanding the feelings of others. Diane Downs killed her kids because she was sick them and wanted to start over. The prosecution said she did for a man, but I don't think the man mattered that much he was just a means to a end. Her children weren't people to her, they were simply more like toys and like a child once she got bored with her toys she got rid of them.
Ann Rule does a great job of trying to get us to understand what makes Diane tick without building sympathy for her. Diane Downs was diagnosed as having AntiSocial Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I'd never heard of the last two but apparently Diane's diagnosis is a scary combo.
Small Sacrifices is a grisly unputdownable tale of pure evil. I've heard there's a tv movie based on this case from the 80's and man I wanna see it.
A must read! That's it... I'm done with Ann Rule. Peace, sister.
I've been in the mood for true crime lately, and I was inspired to pick up Small Sacrifices by my fond memories of Rule's The Stranger Beside Me, which I read in high school. I remember really enjoying that book, but after finishing this one I'm doubting my memories. I am SO disappointed with Small Sacrifices.
For the life of me, I don't understand what Rule saw in Diane Downs that made her want to write a fivehundredpage book about her. Diane shot her three young children, killing one and severely injuring the other two, and the story ends there. Nothing about Diane or her life is interesting enough to fill five hundred pages. About one hundred of those pages is spent on Diane's trial, and it reads like a courtroom transcript. Rule's writing adds nothing to the text, but instead the reader must slog through pages and pages of dialogue, which is boring. This whole book is boring, and I'm angry that I spent so much time reading it. If you want to read about this case, check out the Wikipedia page, but please don't repeat my mistake.
This book makes it very clear that Ann Rule is not a journalist. She tries very hard to be objective in her writing, but any objectivity is at odds with Rule's storytelling. She wants to tell you a story, but the story is often onesided. This was most apparent in Rule's handling of Diane's childhood. Rule briefly mentions that she corresponded with Diane when she was in prison, and she quotes extensively from these letters. The result is that we only get to hear about Diane's early life in Diane's own voice: pages and pages about poor, poor Diane the victim. And it really seems like Rule didn't do any factchecking. For example, Diane tells Rule about an incident where her father was abusing her while driving around in their car, and they got pulled over by the police. Diane describes in detail what happened at that traffic stop, and Rule briefly mentions that this story couldn't be corroborated by the officer's report. What? One of the themes in this book is that Diane is highly manipulative: she manipulated virtually everyone in her life, especially her boyfriends. She wrote countless letters and diary entries, which Rule warned us should be taken with a grain of salt: Diane used these writings to manipulate. Having established that, it's absurd for Rule to use Diane's account as conclusive evidence on her early life. Rule doesn't acknowledge that Diane could be manipulating her, but instead uses Diane's prison letters to up the word count in her book. If Diane is as hungry for attention as Rule says she is, doesn't it follow that Diane would happily use a writer to get even more attention? It's true that Rule is a former police woman, not a journalist, but this huge blindspot really turned me off.
There were also a lot of little things here that irked me. Diane lived most of her life in Arizona, so of course Rule describes Arizona and the Phoenix metro area endlessly. As an Arizona resident, I cringed every time Rule described the cacti, scorpions, rattlesnakes, and the heat. Which was hundreds of times. I think she was trying to make Arizona seem like an exotic locale, but it just didn't work, especially since so much of it was just wrong. In one scene, Rule mentions that it's 115 at 7 AM in May. There is just no way it was that hot. It gets to be 115 during the heat of the day in July, not during the mornings in May, when it would be cool and breezy. In another scene, Rule describes the climate: "the pH factor of the desertacidhad eroded the copper and eaten even into the signature lands and grooves..." This is just false. The Sonoran desert is alkaline, the opposite of acidic. Maybe it's a mistake, but even so, a mistake like that just makes me wonder what else Rule got sloppy on.
Everyone says that this is Rule's best book after The Stranger Beside Me. If that's the case, I won't be reading any more Ann Rule. There are so many excellent true crime books out there that are meticulously researched and engagingly written, and this is just not one of them. I remember watching the tv version of Small Sacrifices in the 1980's. There's a scene of Diane Downs (played by Farrah Fawcett's hair) where she's driving the kids to the middle of nowhere for less witnesses (preferably none alive, anyway) to their impending murder. The twin and I loved to panic and yell "This isn't the way home!" whenever in the car with our mom (she loved it), and other such fun scenes from the film. (There's a darker side to that story in that mom whined faaar too much for my comfort about four kids ruining dating chances. "You are rapidly approaching Diane Downs territory again!" "Shutup." Joking aside, it felt rotten.)
I had a true crime phase in middle school, thanks to my mother. I couldn't possibly remember what all of them are or I'd add (and rate) 'em to goodreads. She'd recommend them and then I'd read so we could have cozy discussions about murder and the nature of nutjobs like Diane Downs. I personally think it was more interesting to talk about than to read in the case of Ann Rule's book. I'm not much for rippedfromtheheadlines so much as interested in the emotional basket cases like this who can do something that heinous and then preen themselves like some kid trying to get away with something they knew was wrong. (I'm freaked out and depressed that there are women who only care about dating chances, as Downs did.) Crazy Diane Downs! Even crazier, if you Google her, you'll see that her poor father has a website devoted to her innocence. I know it's pitiful and comes from heartbreak and desperation, but it really bugs me when a loved one of an accused killer (Jackie Peterson; Diane's father) actually justify seemingly remorseless behavior with stupid, disingenuous lines like "You can't know how you'll react under those circumstances. Everyone is different". This is just plain incorrect. In fact, we CAN, through one hundred odd years of psychiatric, sociological, and forensic research, know within certain parameters how a person is expected to react, say, when his pregnant wife vanishes. It's called "normal". Pretending to be on the phone from Paris with some trashy whore you seduced on a blind date with strawberries and champagne (that cracks me up, she's such a skank)like Scott Peterson did is not normal. Jammin' along and noddin' your head to "Hungry Like the Wolf" as it was played in the courtroom, when you're on trial for shooting your own children, is not normal. It's a good read, but if you actually think she's innocent, maybe you should stick your head in a gas oven.
If you want to get involved with convicted killers who might actually BE innocent, look into the West Memphis Three. And I'll make you do the work. See? They WERE innocent, and are now out of prison. A fascinating crime will always transfer to a good true crime book as long as its well written and ‘Small Sacrifices’ is pure class. There’s crazy criminals and then there’s Diane Downs who’s way way out there on her own far distant universe. As this is public record I don’t think i’ll be ruining it for anyone when I explain the story. On May 19th 1983 Diane, along with her three children, pulled up at her local hospital in a blood drenched car. All four passengers had gun shot related injuries – Daughter Cheryl was dead, Daughter Christie had suffered a stroke, Son Danny was paralyzed from the waist down and Diane had a wound in her left arm.
She explained she’d been carjacked and shot by a stranger but it quickly became apparent that something was a miss. Just like Jeffrey McDonald, of Fatal Vision fame, her demeanor was all wrong. Nobody can predict how they’d act if several members of their family were shot but I can safely say i wouldn’t be cool, calm and in a mood to make inappropriate conversation.
The research for this book was impeccable from her childhood all the way up to the crime itself you become full immersed in Diane’s world of twisted logic. Even after she is sent down based on eye witness testimony from her surviving daughter there’s still no acceptance of responsibility. There always a surprise witness or a new piece of evidence she is preparing to reveal. You have to read about this crime to truly believe it.
As well as ‘Small Sacrifices’ I’d also recommend ‘Bitter Harvest’ and ‘Everything She Ever Wanted’. These three books are Ann Rule at her best.
The irony is that a lot of people — mostly Diane Downs supporters, who, nearly three decades later are still legion — will be happy to tell you that "Small Sacrifices" is one of her most biased works. That's because Rule presents the facts through the lens of the lawandjustice professionals, and Downs' bizarre deeds and behavior simply don't represent in the harsh light of revelation. Downs, the drifter on an obsessive perpetual quest for "perfect" love, depends on smoke and mirrors to sidle her way from one drama to the next, using sociopathic cunning and a sadistic willingness to sacrifice anything and anyone to get what she wants. Including, as we see in one horrifying but skillfully rendered passage, her children.
"Small Sacrifices" is a book from when Rule was still hungry, still on the ascendancy of her career, still with something to prove to the world. And she proves it, with strong storytelling supported by an equally strong factual foundation. As always with Rule, one wishes she was able to fill in the occasional narrative gaps with more interviews with the story's principals. But her attempts — and ultimate failures — to get Diane Downs' story from Downs' own mouth are welldocumented, so this is one case in which Rule's failure to get the perspective of the person at the center of the story can't be faulted. In later books, plenty of fault can be found.
This is a firstrate true crime book — a nearperfect combination of a worthy subject, a talented and hardworking writer on the rise, an intriguing setting and a crackerjack game of catandmouse between the bad girl and the good guys. And most of all, there are heroes to root for — and Rule makes us aware of their quiet heroism without shoving their saintliness down our throats.
I don't read many truecrime books over and over, but "Small Sacrifices" is in that rotation. It's worth that kind of time, if only to remember what a monster Diane Downs truly is — and how she's hardly the only one of her kind. And how the survivors are still living in the long shadow she's cast over their world for 27 years now. I saw a special on Diane Downs and her daughter Becky Babcock on an episode of 20/20 a couple weeks ago. The story was horrific but intriging to me. In the episode they talked about how this woman, Diane, had shot her 3 children, killing 1 of them and injuring the other 2. She blamed everything on a "bushy haired stranger" who shot the kids, but she was still found GUILTY in her long trial. Before she got arrested she became pregnant with Becky (who was originally named Amy) and the 20/20 episode focused on her and how she is coping with knowing that she biologically has a "monster for a mother."
In the episode they talked a lot about and showed clips of a book and a movie called Small Sacrifices. I immediately wanted to read the book and see the movie. I found the movie on youtube.com and watched the whole thing. I also went out and purchased this book. It is a very scary thing to think that you aren't just reading a book...that this was a true story but the book was excellent. I encourage anyone who is interested in this case or just would like a good murder mystery (even though it is a true story) to read this book.
Ann Rule wrote mediocre books, good books, and excellent books. This is one of the excellent ones.