Small Sacrifices

Small Sacrifices
Genre Drama
Written by Ann Rule (book)
Joyce Eliason
Directed by David Greene
Starring Farrah Fawcett
Ryan O'Neal
John Shea
Gordon Clapp
Emily Perkins
Music by Peter Manning Robinson
Country of origin USA
Original language(s) English
Executive producer(s) Suzanne De Passe
Louis Rudolph
Charles W. Fries
Producer(s) S. Bryan Hickox
Cinematography Ron Orieux
Editor(s) Parkie L. Singh (as Parkie Singh)
Running time 159 mins
Production company(s) Louis Rudolph Films
Motown Productions
Allarcom Limited
Fries Entertainment
Distributor ABC
Original network ABC
Original release November 12, 1989

Small Sacrifices is a 1989 American made-for-TV movie written by Joyce Eliason and based on the best-selling true crime book by Ann Rule of the same name. The film is about Diane Downs and the murder and attempted murder of her three children. It stars Farrah Fawcett, Ryan O'Neal, Gordon Clapp, John Shea and Emily Perkins. The film premiered on ABC on 12 November 1989.[1]


On 19 May 1983 at approximately 10:48 p.m, Downs (portrayed by Fawcett) drove to McKenzie-Willamette Hospital in Springfield, Oregon with a gunshot wound to her arm.[2] She claimed that an unknown assailant attempted to carjack her and shot her three children: Karen, 8 (real name Christie Ann); Shauna, 7 (Cheryl Lynn); and Robby, 3 (Stephen Daniel). Shauna was dead on arrival at the hospital. Eldest daughter Karen was badly injured, but survived suffering a temporary loss of speech due to a stroke after the shooting, but recovered sufficiently to serve as a witness in court against her mother. Diane's son was paralyzed from the chest down. Downs was diagnosed with three cluster B personality disorders: antisocial, histrionic and narcissistic. She was eventually tried and convicted of murder, attempted murder, and assault.

The film shows that Downs started a romance with a married man, Lew Lewiston (played by O'Neal; the man's real name was Robert Knickerbocker) who did not want children. Downs planned to kill her children to be free to pursue this relationship. He ended the relationship and remained with his wife.

Diane Downs is sentenced to life in prison, and her two surviving children are adopted by the prosecutor Frank Joziak and his wife Lola (the real life couple were named Fred and Joanne Hugi). The children are depicted being reunited with their mother for the first time, fifteen years after the shooting. In reality Christie was the only one who saw her mother once, after turning 18. She would not see Downs afterwards.

Differences from book

Downs' children Christie, Cheryl and Danny were renamed Karen, Shauna and Robbie for the film. Her ex-husband, Steve, was renamed Boyd Paul. The prosecutor and his wife who later adopted Christie and Danny were also renamed. In both the book and movie Diane's lover, Robert Knickerbocker, was renamed Lew Lewiston.


See also

List of television films produced for American Broadcasting Company


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