Diane Downs: A Cold-Blooded Shooting
Could a Young Mother Be Responsible for the Shootings of Her Three Children?
The evening of Thursday, May 19, 1983 was a normal, if quiet, one at the McKenzie-Willamette Hospital in Springfield, Oregon. The ER’s 4 p.m. until midnight shift consisted of only four people: Dr. John Mackey, Rosie Martin, RN, Shelby Day, LPN, and Judy Patterson, the receptionist. The hospital had three treatment rooms; the ER was almost obsolete in the late spring of 1983. Unlike the larger cities of Portland and Eugene, Springfield was neither trendy nor suffering from some of the problems that plagued cities with twice its population. Bicycling and eating well was of foremost importance in Eugene; if Springfield residents felt the need to work out after putting in a forty (and sometimes fifty or sixty) hour week, they went bowling or dancing at a country western bar. Second only to Portland as the state’s largest industrial region, Springfield liked to boast that a pre-stardom Clint Eastwood had once called Springfield home while working at a local sawmill.
It was nearly 10:30 p.m. and Judy Patterson had grabbed her sweater and purse, preparing to head home, when she was informed by a person in the lobby that someone was outside the front door laying on their horn and yelling for help. Judy ran for Rosie Martin and Shelby Day, both doing paperwork, and apprised them of the situation. As cardiac arrests seemed to be the most common health crisis faced in the emergency room, they grabbed oxygen masks and airways and headed outside.
The car was small, foreign, and shiny red. Thanks to the outdoor fluorescent lighting, it was nearly impossible to see inside the car. A blonde woman wearing jeans and a plaid shirt stood outside the car. Although pale, she wasn’t hysterical or crying and appeared to be in control. “Somebody just shot my kids!” she told the trio of women. Rosie opened the right passenger door to the car and in the backseat, behind the front passenger seat, saw a girl with long brown hair, wearing maroon corduroy slacks and a multicolored t-shirt that was soaked with blood. Next to her was a tiny blonde-headed boy, barely more than a toddler, who was crying and gasping for air. His shirt too was covered in blood. Rosie scooped up the child closest to her, the little girl…