Frederick G. Stickels was elected Sheriff of Lane County in 1919, serving until 1925. Before heading up law enforcement in the county, Stickels was a Deputy County Clerk from 1905 to 1909 and was Eugene City Treasurer from 1915 to 1919. Stickels lived in the Eugene area most of his life. He moved to a farm in the Alvadore area of Eugene from Iowa when he was two years old.
Frank E. Taylor followed Stickels as Sheriff when he was elected in 1925 and served until 1929. He was born in Sullivan County in Missouri and later moved to the Eugene area. Bown was back again from 1929 to 1933.
C.A. "Tom" Swarts, who succeeded Taylor, was Sheriff two different times. He first served from 1933 to November 1942, when he resigned for military service during World War II. When he came back, he served the second time from 1946 to 1953. Swarts was born in Marseilles, Illinois, later moving to the Springfield area.
Orval E. Crowe, who was on the Lane County Commission twice, filled in for Swarts while he was in the service.
Swarts was on the County Commission a total of 10 years. He died a year after leaving the Sheriff's Office after suffering a heart attack while driving his car in the Springfield area.
Edward Woodrow Elder, a Montana native, was elected to succeed Swarts in 1953 and stayed on for eight years, serving as head of Lane County law enforcement until 1961. After he left the Sheriff' s Office, Elder was elected to the State Legislature in 1961.
Harry Hayden Marlowe followed Elder, serving as Sheriff of the county from 1961 to 1973. Marlowe brought with him plenty of law enforcement experience. He was a Deputy Sheriff in Contra Costa, California from 1939 to 1941, was on the Anchorage, Alaska Police Department from 1945 to 1946 and the Alaska Highway Patrol from 1946 to 1951. Marlowe signed on with the Lane County Sheriff's Office as a Deputy in 1955.
David N. Burks was elected Sheriff of the county in 1973. He resigned in May 1991 when he learned he had cancer. He died in August.
Burks began his law enforcement career in 1958 when he signed on with the Lane County Sheriff's Office as a Deputy, working his way up to a detective lieutenant from 1967 to 1973, when he ran for Sheriff. Burks won four straight elections.
He was picked by the state to serve on a number of committees including the Community Corrections Advisory Committee, State Organized Crime Commission, Board on Police Standards and Training, State Methadone Advisory Committee and the State Corrections Advisory Committee.
Burks was named Oregon Sheriff of the Year in 1977, 1980, 1982 and 1987 and was the recipient of numerous appreciation awards from state and local groups.
She looks like a model out of the pages of Cosmopolitan or Vogue, a woman with a Cover Girl complexion and a Pepsodent smile.
But behind the attractive facade lies a cunning, sinister killer who according to court testimony shot and killed one of her daughters and seriously wounded her second daughter and her son.
Oregon law enforcement authorities have never encountered anyone quite like Elizabeth Diane Downs. From the moment she was arrested on Feb. 28, 1984 to the moment she was convicted on June 19, Downs maintained she was innocent of the shooting, that a stranger or strangers trying to commandeer her car, shot her and her three children on the night of May 19, 1983, along a rural road near Springfield.
Yet, right from the start, Lane County authorities considered Downs a prime suspect in the shootings. They seriously doubted her story that a "shaggy- haired stranger" flagged her down and then demanded her car keys. Downs claimed that when she pretended to throw her keys into some bushes, the stranger became unglued, pulled out a gun and shot her and her three sleeping children in the car. The man fled on foot.
Downs suffered a bullet wound in her left arm, although authorities contended it was self-inflicted to throw suspicion off her. Her daughter Cheryl Lynn, 7, was fatally wounded, and her other two children -- Christie Ann, 8, and Stephen Daniel, 3, sustained near paralizing injuries from the shootings.
Lane County Sheriff's Deputies arrested Downs Feb. 28, 1984, as she entered the Cottage Grove post office where she worked as a part-time letter carder. A Lane County Grand Jury indicted Downs on one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and two counts of first-degree assault.
Downs' 31-day jury trial in Lane County Circuit Court in Eugene was one of the most widely-covered murder trials in Oregon history. Downs played to the cameras lined up outside the Lane County courthouse when she arrived and departed each day, forever smiling and waving to the assembled reporters, photographers, television cameramen and spectators. She seemed to bask in the spotlight outside the courtroom.
But inside the courtroom, Downs was taking a beating from some unrelentless prosecutors who had obviously done their homework and some key witnesses who shot holes through her story. The most damaging testimony came from her own surviving daughter, Christie Ann.
On the witness stand Christie Ann Downs testified her mother stopped the car off a rural road, got out of the car and went back to the trunk. The girl then testified her mother opened the trunk, shut it and returned to the car with something in her hand. Seconds later, she heard the first shot.
When asked by Frederick A. Hugi, Lane County Deputy District Attorney, how she knew her mother fatally shot her sister, Christie Ann replied in a quivering voice: "I watched her .....My mom
Then, under Hugi's questioning, Christie Ann tearfully told the jury that her mother leaned over the back seat of the car and shot her brother, Danny, and her.
Despite some pointed cross-examination by Downs' attorney James C. Jagger, Christie Ann denied anyone coached her or told her to lie about the shooting. Jagger had suggested in his opening remarks that others had told the girl what happened the night of the shooting and that she had been led to believe that her mother committed the acts.
Testifying in her own defense, Downs later denied she shot her children because they stood in the way of her and her former lover. The prosecution contended Downs shot her three children because her ex-boyfriend in Chandler, Ariz., didn't want any part in a woman with three children.
She insisted she loved her three children, that she never cared enough about any man to want to harm her children.
The jury of nine women and three men deliberated 36 hours before returning its unanimous verdict: Guilty of murder for the shooting death of Cheryl Lynn Downs. Guilty of attempted murder in the shootings of Christie Ann Downs and Stephen Daniel Downs. Guilty of first-degree assault for the attack on her three children.
Downs, who was carrying her fourth child at the time, showed little emotion as the verdict was read by Circuit Judge Gregory G. Foote. She was later sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years.
But authorities hadn't heard or seen the last of Elizabeth Diane Downs. On July 11, 1987 -- three years after she was sentenced -- Downs pulled off a daring escape from the Oregon Women' s Correctional Center in Salem. Authorities said she scaled two, 18-foot fences surrounding the prison, climbed under a pick-up truck, and waited several minutes before calmly walking away. Prison officials later said they believe Downs wore several layers of clothing to avoid puncture wounds from the barbed wire atop the fences. A tattered striped shirt was found under the pick-up truck where Downs reportedly hid after scaling the prison fences.
An alarm hooked to the outside fence rang briefly at 8:40 a.m. that morning, but prison officials didn't think anything of it, saying the sensitive alarm went off accidentally at least once a day due to anything from a strong wind to a bird. However, when a nurse arriving at the prison 15 minutes later reported seeing a suspicious woman climb out from under a pickup truck and walk away, saying she believed the woman was Diane Downs, prison guards did a quick emergency roll call and discovered Downs missing.
A massive search of the Salem area was launched. Ironically, Downs, wearing civilian-type clothing, was picked up hitchhiking, virtually right across the street from the women's prison and adjacent to Division 2 headquarters of the Oregon State Police. The unwitting couple that picked up Downs drove her to the site of a restaurant at State and 24th streets, three blocks from the prison, where Downs got out.
The couple would later tell authorities Downs said she needed to get to a phone quickly because her boyfriend had just been injured in an automobile accident.
Downs' escape triggered a multi-state search which surprisingly ended 10 days later back in Salem -- less than a half mile from the prison. Indentations on a piece of paper found in Downs' cell were analyzed by the FBI. Using an electrostatic process, the FBI was able to enhance the indentations on the paper, which included an address of a house and a map showing its location.
Oregon State Police conducted a driveby surveillance of the run-down house for two days. Then, state and local police served a search warrant on the house and found Downs and four men inside. The four men were charged with hindering prosecution.
In November, 1987, Downs was transferred to the Correctional Institution for Women, in Clinton, N.J., a maximum security prison. In exchange, Oregon prison officials agreed to take two New Jersey criminals.
Downs made news again in September, 1991, when Marion County Circuit Judge Duane R. Erstgaard denied her request for a new trial. Erstgaard wrote his decision in a letter to Downs' attorneys, saying she was adequately represented by lawyers in her trial and appeal. The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld her convictions in February, 1987.
But Elizabeth Diane Downs, whose story was the subject of at least two novels and a made-for-television movie, continues to maintain her innocence in her never-ending efforts to overturn her 1984 convictions from her new home -- the Washington State Women's Correctional Institute in Gig Harbor, Wash.
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