No parole for child killer

SALEM — Convicted child killer Diane Downs has been denied parole and must wait 10 years for her next hearing after the state parole board ruled she has a "mental or emotional" condition that makes her a threat to society.

Downs was convicted in 1984 of killing her 7-year-old daughter and severely wounding her eldest daughter and 3-year-old son in a shooting that left both the surviving children with permanent injuries.

Downs, 55, was first denied parole in December 2008, after serving nearly 25 years, but had the right to a new hearing two years later.

This time, a new law that took effect this year allowed the state parole board to deny Downs another hearing for 10 years after rejecting her second parole request on Friday, The Oregonian reported.

Since April, only nine other inmates of the 49 who have been denied parole in Oregon have had their next parole hearings extended more than two years, according to Jeremiah Stromberg, executive director of the Oregon Board of Parole & Post-Prison Supervision.

Of those, only three must wait the maximum of 10 years. Two of them — Stephen Danforth and Omar Carroll — are convicted murderers, and the third, Joel Guzek, was convicted of rape and manslaughter.

Downs' parole hearing was held at Chemeketa Community College in Salem with a video link to Downs at Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, Calif., where she is serving the remainder of her term.

Downs said in a letter to the board Nov. 30 she would not become "media fodder" and participate in the Friday hearing, but she made the same threat before her first parole hearing in 2008 and did take part.

Her case was decided by Aaron Felton, Darcey Baker and Candace Wheeler. Felton, the board chair, was not on the board in 2008 during Downs' first hearing.

After the decision, the lead prosecutor in her case, Doug Welch, says he was pleased that the parole board extended Downs' next release hearing for a maximum of 10 years.

"She got life plus 50," he said. "Let's see her do life."

Welch said Downs appeared to be pretty much the same woman he interviewed in the hospital the night she shot her children in 1983 — calm, emotionless and without grief.

Welch said that Downs has never taken responsibility for the murder of her daughter or shooting her other two children. "She will always maintain her innocence," Welch said.

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