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Father of Diane Downs Remains Vigilant After 30 Years (VIDEO)Tim King Salem-News.com
Frederickson says evidence clearly proves his daughter could not have shot her children.
(DALLAS, Texas) - 30 years have passed, but the parents of Diane Downs, Wes and Willadene Frederickson, still remain hopeful that their daughter can find justice in Oregon's courts for a wrongful conviction and life sentence.
They raise many concerns over her three-decade old conviction for the shooting of her three children, one of whom died, and say even the most basic tests for courts were not met or passed.
We're talking about things like blood splatter, and gunshot residue... telltale signs of involvement with a crime involving a firearm.
Diane Downs bore none of those most basic signs of evidence, yet she was still convicted.
An often cited lack of visual remorse was a big part of what led to her conviction. Not evidence, not scientific proof. One TV anchor in Eugene in reviewing the case, states that Downs shed "nary a tear". The truth is that all people do not react as expected in every case or situation. Human beings possess different personal mechanisms for dealing with trauma and pain.
In a previous article I cited a US soldier who smiled while talking about the loss of his friends in Afghanistan. The logic that convicting Downs, centering around her facial expressions, is not logical at all.
During the trial, the state brought out their star witness, Downs' 8-year old daughter Christie. After being in state custody for several months, the girl testified that her mother shot her and the other two children. It was damning to say the least.
The girl's testimony convicted Downs even though ballistics tests proved she had not fired a gun. However in discussions with Downs' brother James Frederickson, it became clear that the girl very likely did see her mother outside of the car, as Downs testified that she was standing adjacent to the car's window.
It is possible that the young girl, who the prosecutor, Fred Hugi, wanted to adopt, was well-coached, if not blatantly coerced.
A few years later, daughter Christie was interviewed and the audio of that interview is very revealing.
Christie indicates in that interview that she isn't sure about Downs' involvement in the crime. Her words and her tone were sincere, and should be considered, even at this late date.
The DA, Fred Hugi, adopted both of Downs' surviving children, and though it seemed an odd move, reporters made little of that massive conflict of interest.
At that same time, another prosecutor in the case, Pat Horton, was under investigation for alleged ties to the drug trade and other illegal activity.
One can only wonder if there may end up being wrongful death or civil lawsuits in the future. The children/family could claim what is called "personal injury" in that situation and sue for emotional damages they have suffered due to the tragic death, followed by separation from their mother and cutting ties with all their relatives, if the real guilty party or parties is realized and brought to justice. In that situation they would call a personal injury lawyer. (For more information visit https://www.findlegaladvice.org to read more about personal injury cases.)
The bottom line remains: the person who shot the children of Diane Downs would have had several types of evidence on their hands and body that, if discovered, would have conclusively allowed prosecutors to pursue an honest case.
Diane Downs was convicted because she didn't appear "sorry enough" during her TV appearances. Because she seemed "aloof".
Celebrity Author Covers Case
Many attribute the conviction of Downs to the arrival of author Ann Rule at Downs' trial. Even though Rule never interviewed Downs, she wrote a book and signed a subsequent movie deal, casting her as guilty.
Rule has written a number of extremely successful books that trace the crimes of famous serial killers, men like Ted Bundy, who had been a personal friend of Ann Rule's years prior to her work involving Downs.
The book by Rule, titled 'Small Sacrifices,' was later made into a movie starring Farah Fawcett. Millions were exposed to this book and film and all walk away believing Downs is guilty.
In fact, Downs would have already been released if she admitted to the crime, but she refuses, she will spend the rest of her life in prison before making that claim, she says.
In this sense it is the ultimate expression of being convicted in the media and because it involved the violent death of a child, the official story outrages those exposed to it, and so little was done for Downs by the media, the courts, or even her own attorney.
Tim: So Wes, talk to me about the things that stand out in your mind when it comes to Diane, things like the gunpowder residue that we were going over this morning.
Wes: I'd really like to start with the first time I heard somebody say, they knew who did it. They actually contacted Diane. I went and met with them and she gave me the first affidavit that Diane didn't shoot her children but her son-in-law did. That was the start and it has been a long trail since then. From Fran Werta, there have been one after another that have come forward.
Tim: Fran Werta is the mother-in-law of James Hanes.
Tim: Most people who have paid attention to this story believe he is indeed the person who pulled the trigger that night.
Wes: Yes that's right.
Tim: And he died very recently.
Wes: In June of this year. 
Tim: In June, but you have several people that were very close to James Hanes who have told you, they do believe indeed he is the one.
Wes: In fact Clayton Nysten was his partner, and he told me (it was) James, but it is hard to get anybody to listen, at least the people who have the power to do something about it. They just choose to ignore it, and that way with nothing said they don't have to do anything about it.
Tim: In your mind they knew just what they were going to do before the trial even started... that they were going to have their conviction?
Wes: No question abut it, no question about it.
Tim: And the fact that Ann Rule, who is so well known after writing so many books, when she showed up that obviously let people know that she was believing the police at that point, Ann Rule?
Wes: I wouldn't believe the police in Eugene, Oregon any more than if somebody came up and said, 'I think Diane did it' when then don't know anything.
Tim: Right. And you are a retired postmaster. You had quite a dazzling career with the Postal Service didn't you?
Wes: I had a fun career with them, yes.
Tim: And you had relocated to Springfield yourself and that...
Wes: Yeah, I got a promotion to Springfield. [Oregon]
Tim: OK, and Diane worked as a postal delivery worker, I think many people don't realize that that was...
Wes: Yes, she was working in Eugene, and Eugene is a twin city to Springfield.
Tim: And it was during that time that she was approached by a man who described himself as a federal investigator named Coffin.
Wes: That is true
Tim: And he asked her to go into a party one night and observe what she saw?
Tim: And can you describe what she saw?
Wes: What she did was she went into a room where the drug trade was... She had been told, 'You can go any place you want but don't go into this area here because that's off limits.' My daughter is very strange that way, she is curious to find out what she shouldn't find out. She went into a room and there was a drug trade going on, there was quite a ruckus, they said 'get out, this is not your place!'.
Tim: And that is where we believe she saw Pat Horton, who was a prosecutor for the state of Oregon out of Lane County, right?
Tim: And this is the prosecutor who, after the case was over, went to work for the same people he had been convicting, or not convicting. But that is an amazing story. With James Hanes, you have a number of people that knew him who have said they believe he is the killer.
Tim: So that is Fran Werta, the mother-in-law, his partner that you just mentioned.
Wes: Clayton Nysten
Tim: Clayton Nysten, now what happened to him?
Wes: He died.
Tim: And what happened to him?
Wes: He was in a motorcycle accident out near his place, in the country in Springfield, actually Junction City.
Tim: Was there anything suspicious about his death that you knew of?
Wes: I've been told that he, after his accident, he went to stay in a motel to recuperate, I don't have any way to prove it.
Tim: Oh he survived the accident?
Wes: He survived the accident but he was in bad shape. I've been told that the police said he fell in the room and broke his neck.
Wes: I don't know if that is true...
Tim: But at any rate, he ceased to exist at that point.
Wes: I was told by people, that James Hanes came and did him in. They both were Karate buddies, that is how they met. James Hanes had a nickname of 'Animal' and he proved it many times.
Tim: After the shooting happened, I understand he was driving a brand new vehicle all of a sudden and that lent weight to the theory that he had been given a pretty big payment to commit the act against Diane and your grandchildren?
Wes: I don't know about the vehicle.
Tim: OK, I think that is something James (Frederickson) and I had run into, that he had some type of brand new red car. At any rate, after all of these years, Diane's been convicted and in prison, and it obviously hasn't been easy, but she has stuck to her story this entire time didn't she? She has never done anything to indicate that she was involved in that crime.
Wes: No she hasn't. As a matter of fact, the governor, two different times, sent letters so she could file clemency, but she says 'I won't do it, I won't confess to something I didn't do, she says 'I'll rot in prison'.
Tim: That is a big statement.
Wes: Yeah, I wish there was some way around it.
Tim: I think anyone who has watched this story knows that you've stood by her from the beginning of this whole thing, and you're still standing by her today, still hoping.
Wes: Yeah I do hope so, it's wrong because there are too many things, the tests that they ran on her; ballistics tests, she had no gunshot residue on her she no blood splatter on her and trace metal was negative, she passed all those.
Tim: And we know for a fact that she drove to the hospital in a mighty big hurry she didn't take the time to wash off... I don't think you can wash off those residues.
Wes: Well she was actually followed from the site back there by someone, I don't remember the name now, it is in the record... as she made her way to town, so they verified that she came that route.
Tim: Right, and she drove straight to the hospital, which is not the act of one who is trying to take life away. You don't drive them to the hospital as fast as you can. Well that is the one that has always stood out in my mind, and I know, I've read about the trial, I wasn't there but my friend Eric was there and he's gone over it with me in great detail. You know he was shaking his head as a young reporter throughout the whole thing. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. Also the lawyer, Jagger, um, seems.. OK well you just, we went over the one court document, that was the police officer that ran the forensic tests that indicated that she hadn't used a weapon. And he didn't ask any questions in regard to that did he?
Wes: No he didn't.
Tim: Was that maybe the best opportunity that he had?
Wes: I think that he had several opportunities just like that and he just... 'No further questions'.
Tim: Let's talk about Oregon for just a moment. As a reporter I have covered many stories about Oregon's legal system that show how flawed it can be, and how corrupt it can be. But what do you say to the average person who is sitting there watching this going, 'But you know, this is a court, this is a... it is corrupt isn't it?
Wes: I think so.
Tim: People do things for personal gain.
Tim: And this is where your grandchildren fall into the story again with the prosecutor adopting the grandchildren, have you ever heard a story like that?
Wes: No, never before.
Tim: If that wasn't a conflict of interest then I don't honestly know... this is Fred Hugi.
Wes: Yes, Fred Hugi was prosecutor, and the state awarded him the children. We had people in several cities that would have taken them, that were family members.
Wes: We didn't receive any consideration.
Tim: How about the testimony of Danny?
Wes: They didn't have him testify in court, but in the hospital he asked 'why that man shot me, why that man shot me?'
Tim: It is completely amazing that that was not allowed in court, that would have...
Wes: The nurse wrote it down in the hospital records. As a matter of fact I might have it around here too.
Tim: And Jagger didn't use these tools, so to speak?
Wes: No. I think his intention was to get out of it as easy as he could.
Tim: And his wife became a judge right after this?
Wes: (Chuckles) Yes, unfortunately yes, and I am very suspicious.
Wes: Oregon has a way of rewarding people. Coffin became a judge, and Jagger's wife became a judge.
Tim: Yup, and then Horton went on to no longer be a prosecutor but to be a representative of the very people he had been...
Wes: Yeah, I think he had to leave, because the pressure was on.
Tim: Yeah there was pressure on him for the drugs having disappeared. All independent from everything else we are talking about. Is he practicing today as far as you know, still? Is he still an attorney?
Wes: I don't know, I've kind of lost touch with it, I know where he is.
Tim: So how often do you hear from Diane? Are you in contact fairly regularly?
Wes: I did have a phone working so that she could call home if she wanted but for some reason she has been unable to contact us by phone. It's not about money because I have plenty of money to... but she says they have it blocked. And I've called and they say 'no it's not blocked' but she keeps telling me it is blocked.
Tim: Well she's the one who would know if it's not working because she's...
Wes: So we write her letters instead, we keep waiting every day, we hope to her (from) her - we even got a second telephone, to try another phone, a second telephone...
Tim: Well I said earlier that I think every person should be able to relate to this. Their child is accused of something where it just doesn't make sense, and then put away for so long. What would you say to the Oregon Governor or Attorney General if you could sit down with them right now, what would you say to them?
Wes: Look at the circumstances, the report was from the court, not what the judge said, but what the investigators found. No blood splatter, not any sign. No trace metal. No gunshot residue, no blood splatter.
Tim: And I don't mean to sound rude but the car was a mess. I mean the headliner of the car was soaked with blood, it looked to me from the photos that anybody who would have been anywhere near that shooting would have had plenty of evidence on them.
Wes: And the headliner that Christie was lying down too, because the splatter went up.
Wes: If she had been sitting behind the driver's seat as she said, the trajectory would have been downward and there would have been spray all over, blood spray all over the seat, and it was not.
Tim: And the prosecution obviously implied that Diane's gunshot injury was self-inflicted. It was a fairly serious injury wasn't it?
Tim: I understand it broke the bones, (in her forearm) not one but both, both bones. Not a minor injury. The media even refers to it as a minor injury. I wonder how those reporters would feel if they had a bullet through their arm. They might not refer to it the same way. (laughter) Now some of the newspaper coverage seemed somewhat fair, of the trial, is that true?
Wes: Say that again?
Tim: Well the newspaper, the Eugene Register Guard, they covered parts of the story that showed they were trying to be fair, do you agree with that?
Tim: Nope, did they have different writers working on it over the years, I imagine?
Wes: Oh I think they perhaps were fair, they reported what they knew but I didn't mean to say that. The writers were doing the best with what they had to work with, but I don't think the courts were fair.
Tim: No I don't think the courts were fair either in looking back at this, but it is the Register Guard where we can go read about certain parts of this case that will really make you shake your head.
Tim: And Jagger, the fact that he didn't choose to challenge any of that material that came across. Now you did get him a few years later to say that 300 and some odd pages of exculpatory evidence was withheld?
Wes: Three hundred and sixty three I think it was... pages.
Tim: That seems like it should bring a trial by itself, a new trial, right?
Wes: The judges don't think it's important.
Tim: No, I guess that would rock their boat.
Wes: One of the things they had in there was, an employee at the Westside Post Office says he knows who shot Diane and the kids. They never followed up.
Tim: If attorneys who are watching this have any great thoughts, can they email you?
Tim: Great we'll put it on the screen so people can see it there. I don't know, I get the feeling when I read over this that there is hope still, because it is a ridiculous case.
Wes: We should have hope, I'm beginning to lose confidence though...
Tim: I can imagine, but here you and your wife are after all these years still standing by your daughter, trying to do the right thing, you've got James, he came out to California and I went all the way up to Oregon and back with him, I will be following up on this when I get back.
Previous articles about Diane Downs on Salem-News.com
Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer
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With almost 25 years of experience on the west coast and worldwide as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor, Tim King is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine who follows stories of Marines and Marine Veterans; he's covered British Royal Marines and in Iraq, Tim embedded with the same unit he served with in the 1980's.
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