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Small Sacrifices

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Director  David Greene
First episode date  November 12, 1989
7.8/10 IMDb

Genre  Drama
Small Sacrifices movie poster

Release date  November 12, 1989
Writer  Ann Rule (book), Joyce Eliason (teleplay)
Episodes  1 Episode 1Season 1 - Nov 12 - 1989, 1 Episode 1, 1 Episode 1Season 1 - Nov 12 - 1989, 1 Episode 1
Cast  Farrah Fawcett, Ryan O'Neal, Gordon Clapp, John Shea, Emily Perkins, Christopher Caravalho
Similar movies  Farrah Fawcett appears in Small Sacrifices and Extremities

Abc sunday night movie promo small sacrifices 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.



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. 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. During the court scene the prosecution plays Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf to demonstrate to the jury Diane's choice of song used to motivate her to kill.

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).

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.


  • Farrah Fawcett as Diane Downs
  • Ryan O'Neal as Lew Lewiston
  • Gordon Clapp as Detective Doug Welch
  • John Shea as Frank Joziak
  • Garry Chalk as Boyd Paul Downs
  • Emily Perkins as Karen Downs
  • Ken James as Daryl Chapman
  • Sean McCann as Russell Wells
  • Lynne Cormack as Lola Joziak
  • Maxine Miller as Diane's mother
  • Vicki Wauchope as Shauna Downs
  • Timothy Sell as The Stranger (Carjacker)
  • References

    Small Sacrifices Wikipedia
    Small Sacrifices IMDb Small Sacrifices