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If you crack open an American history book, it's sure to be filled with founding fathers, bloody wars and the inventions that brought this country to the industrial age. But there's a whole other world that waits for us in the shadows, tales of unlikely heroes, world changing tragedies and legends that are unique to this country's spirit. So join me, Lauren Vilcabamba, for a tour of American history, unlike any other through a new podcast from My Heart Radio and Aaron Minsky's Grim and mild, get ready for American Shadows.
Listen to American Shadows on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Blood on the Tracks is a new podcast about legendary music producer Phil Spector in the murder of Lana Clarkson. This podcast is hosted by me, Jake Brennan, creator and host of the award winning music and true crime podcast Disgrace Graceland. Season one features 10 episodes told from the perspective of those who knew Phil Spector best, his so-called friends. Just like Phil Spector. This podcast sounds like nothing you've heard before.
Blood on the Tracks contains adult content and explicit language. Listen to Blood on the Tracks and the I Heart Radio Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.
Jackie, to me, epitomized everything that a person would want in a mom, she was patient, she was caring, she was affectionate, physically affectionate with the girls, which both Chris and Jackie were like that. But she was definitely very maternal. And even with me, I mean, gosh, I can't even tell you how many times I would go to her and cry about something. I went to her for advice all the time. I absolutely looked up to her and she was so nurturing in everything that she did.
The voice you heard belongs to Alina, a woman who babysat Becky and her sister for many years now, 34 years old, Becky lives a normal life like everyone else. But what's unusual about her story is that her biological mother is a convicted killer. Diane Downs, Diane was ordered by the state to place Becky, then Amy, up for adoption.
She went to live a peaceful life with her adoptive parents, Jackie and Chris in Bend, Oregon.
Becky had a great home life and her parents provided her with a good home environment and treated her well.
They were amazing. I mean, we had eighty acres. We did forage and had horses and all the animals you could think of. We lived on the river. It was a deal to be a place to raise children. And so my sister was adopted first and then four years later, my parents adopted me.
Allena is a very same babysitter whom Becky tricked into revealing her biological mother's identity. Elina remembers the interaction from there.
I went to the bookstore and I had to have my parents take me obviously close kid and I found the book biannual and I thumbed through the pages and went straight to the pictures.
That was like the moment reality set that this woman is actually my biological mom and more so the reality is that my parents weren't my real parents. I always knew they were not my real parents, but it was the fact that now there was this third person, now there was reality of who my biological mother was. I think I've been through years of asking that. It just I didn't think I'd ever know. And at that point, I wish I hadn't known.
It's really scary. Becky was able to mostly forget about Diane for a few years, it was that answer to the question, you know, and so I was able to let that go and it was more of just the needing to know. And now that I knew, I didn't want to know. So I just kind of buried it deep.
Stayed buried for a while until Becky decided to share her secret.
When I was 16, I had told a boyfriend who Diane Downs was, and it was just during that get to know you phase. You know, he had asked if I had anything that I never told anybody before, you know, a secret.
And that was the biggest secret I had. So I told him one day he said, you know, let's watch a movie, come on over to my house. I remember sitting on his futon and he popped the tape in and then he left the room to go make snacks or something. And and that's when it started playing. And, you know, you see the small sacrifices. It was difficult to watch Farrah Fawcett as Diane down and to let that story unfold in front of me.
You can't look away. But I did not want to watch it, but I couldn't stop watching it. At the bookstore, Becky saw the pictures of her mom in the book, but didn't read it.
So watching this was the first time she'd heard the entire story. I don't even know the words to explain how it felt it killed a little part of my innocence in a sense, just to know that that's really where I'm biologically from.
And I felt so stupid looking back, wanting to know for so long. And I understand why my mom didn't want to tell me.
Becky finally understood where she had come from and the woman who had given birth to her.
The part that really got me was when Diane was holding that baby. That was a representation of who I am and. It became real.
It's like that's me in a sense, and the fact that she held me and is uncomfortable, really difficult to watch.
After the discovery of her biological mom, was Becky's behavior shifted towards rebellion?
Looking back now, as an adult, I can see that it affected me greatly because it was the beginning of my rebellious years. And perhaps that information and in not dealing with it appropriately and emotionally, that it caused me to go off the rails a little bit. Becky came to resent the secrecy and the hidden facts about where she came from.
She also saw part of her identity and Diane not being prepared emotionally to the jarring physical resemblance to Diane causing her to question who she was after I saw the video and really got the full idea of who Diane Downs was.
I just kind of stopped caring. I shut down inside somehow and I had already been pretty rebellious.
But at that age it was more destructive rebellion, self-destruction, partying, sleeping around drugs, running away. You know, I wasn't living at home at that point.
It was Gary. I guess looking back now, I'm amazed I'm still alive by some of the situations I put myself in. At 17 is when I decided that I am going nowhere in life and I'm just a disappointment to everybody.
So I needed to do something. And I joined the army.
And the day that I stepped out for boot camp, they told me I was pregnant.
Before being shipped off to boot camp, recruits are subject to a battery of tests, and for women, this includes a last minute pregnancy test.
As I walked by and they said, OK, everybody's clear. And as I walked by, I looked down at them and there is one positive. And I was like, um, excuse me. You know, it's like, is that mine?
And I'm like, oh, my gosh, sit right here. And they made me wait for hours. They didn't tell me anything. They did call my dad, though, because I was 17 and they hadn't told him. And that was awful. I told him before you and I begged them, I said, please don't tell my dad. You know, he can't let me at least tell him that I'm pregnant.
Becky's parents were supportive to an extent, but for the most part, she was on her own after finding out that I was pregnant.
I see in Portland for a while and continued to hang out with some of the same people that weren't very healthy for me. I wasn't doing any drugs. I quit smoking and I talked with my dad and I tried to come home, but they said, you know, we raised our children. This is something you need to do on your own. They paid for me to have a house so I could raise my child.
And my dad said that every parent needs to be home for at least the first two years of a child's life. So they helped me for the first two years, even though I couldn't live with them and they wouldn't really help me raise him.
They were there the whole time and they made it possible that I could have my child and that I could take care of them and be that hands on parent with Christian Baccy discovered that she loved being a mom in the beginning when Christian was little.
I didn't have time to think, you know, sleep deprived and always caring for a little baby.
I loved being a mom. I never really worried about my genes transferring to him. He was perfect in my eyes. Maybe that's how my mom felt when she looked at me, you know, and accepted me into their family because I just didn't see any more negative things or anything bad. I just saw this perfect little child. And so I didn't worry who he was going to grow up to be. Becky started dating a co-worker and fell in love and then by choice, Becky got pregnant a second time.
At that point. We started to go wrong before we got pregnant. We drank a lot. We were still partying quite a bit and I had to sober up and do things right because I was pregnant. We just realized we didn't really like each other anymore and we didn't know who each other was without the alcohol and staying up all night partying and that sort of stuff, and then things got worse without warning. The father of her child just left.
I was just destroyed. I was heartbroken. I was pregnant with my second child. I was you know, I couldn't afford where I was living because I couldn't work. It was a high risk pregnancy. I was bedridden for most of it. I didn't want to give up on our family. So I ended up staying at a homeless shelter because I could work. After speaking to her parents, Becky decided the best option would be to put the second child up for adoption.
They said that if I would think about adoption and do what's best for both the children, that I could stay with them till the baby was born. And they were right. I was homeless. I was a single mom, but I couldn't raise two children, even though even though I really wanted to I didn't want to give my son away. But it was what's best for both of them. The birth of his second child was emotionally and physically challenging, so is to the point where it's time to be induced because it was a high risk pregnancy, they wanted to just kind of, you know, move things along.
I was there by myself because my family was too hard on them. It broke their heart to let him go as well. It hurt in so many ways, you know, emotionally and physically and everything just hurt, and then he was born.
And he was perfect's. They told me that I could spend as much time with them as I wanted, and I just told them that I knew that if I didn't let him go, that I would never let them go. They just had to take him so I can let go.
I was devastated and I didn't know who to talk to, I didn't know anybody else that had put their child up for adoption and had thought loss for some reason, I thought about contacting Diane. I understand how she felt, I, too, did a similar thing. I had reached out to my father in a letter to his prison as a teen telling him about my abortion, thinking I find a safe place to share that he couldn't be judgmental as he was serving multiple life sentences.
It doesn't make sense logically, but in the moment of desperation and a need for connection, he was the only person I thought would be in a place to listen and to care.
One night I was especially sad and. And I just wondered, Diana ever felt what I felt in that moment, I just needed somebody that I could relate to. I didn't need a mother, I had one, but I needed somebody that had been through it. And she went through it with me. There was that connection. It was my biological mom who held me and who let me go. And for that brief moment, I just wanted to know that she was human.
Becky reached out with a fairly ordinary letter just describing herself. And Diana responded.
She responds fairly normal. The first letter, actually, it was telling me what she looked like and where she was born and and just general really nice things.
I got the letter and I was almost like, OK, this isn't so bad. Maybe I didn't make a mistake in writing her because after I put that letter in the mailbox, my heart sank. I was just what did I do? Why why did I do that?
Ever since the day that I sent that first letter, I was terrified of what the letter coming back would be.
But I was excited. Terrified. The correspondence with Diane didn't last long. I think there was only like six letters in total exchanged. I wrote her my first letter about a week and a half later. So she had to have written me that day that she received the letter and sent it back because it was a very quick turnaround. And so then I responded a few days after receiving her letter. And I think that I in the second letter I asked about my biological father and I asked who he was and if I could know him and where he was.
Diane was a clinical narcissist and couldn't stand the idea that the focus was no longer on her.
She just got angry and said she was never going to tell me and why would I ask those questions? And I don't need to know and just avoided it in every way possible. After writing to Diane for a while, she begins to see the parallels between their lives and behavior. Becky begins to wonder if she's a psychopath, just like Diane. So I'm talking with her and I said, you know what, if at some point you would like to tell your story, I could help you get your story told somewhere.
After Eric's first meeting with Becky, he began to explore the idea that he could be the person to help tell her story, to finally give her a chance to let the world know about her from her own point of view.
I think there was this sort of this Diane shaped void inside of her that she's always trying to bring the drugs and the men and everything to I mean, she would talk about really sort of crying out to God and saying, please help me. I don't know who I really am. I just the daughter of this crazy killer or am I this person who's going to have my own life and my own identity? And I don't want to be known as the daughter of Diane Downs anymore by going to the media.
This was a way for Becky to take back control of her identity.
It was this thirst in this quest for identity, but also in addition to identity. It was also how much do I want Diane to be a part of my future going forward? How how far do I let Diane in? I think at the end it was, you know what?
I'm satisfied with that. And now I'm going to move on and I'm going to decide what I want to do with my life in terms of I'm going to do to help people and be a person who's kind to other people.
Eric teamed up with a reporter from The Oregonian, Lisa Grace led Neisser, and they began to shop the story around.
And at the time, I had really no idea what I would do or how I would do it. But Lisa and I approached several magazines and all of them were like, wow, we love that story.
After some wrestling with our own ideals about how they wanted to present the story, Erik and Lisa finally decided to work with Glamour magazine.
Well, I mean, there was that debate like, am I just, you know, a conduit and another tawdry story about a killer? Or is this somebody who is is a microcosm of what you find out when you find out your family secrets? And is this a bigger story about family secrets and what to do with them once you find out about them?
And so when we sort of came from that angle and then Glamours said, we'll take care of a sidebar about what happens when you find out, you know, that you're related to this over here, then it seemed to take on more of a little bit more of a public service story in terms of that, everybody has this dark side of a family, the pedophile, the murderer, the person who did something ended up in prison and how to handle that.
Becky didn't make telling the story easy. She would be cooperative at times and not at others.
Well, it was torturous at times. I mean, some days she was really up and ready to tell her story. And we listened. I had gone over and rented a condo for three or four days and she would come and talk at length about it.
And then she'd drop off the face of the Earth for a couple of weeks and you wouldn't hear from her.
Becky's parents didn't respond well to her sudden interest in outing herself in the media. And her diminishing relationship with them at the time made the experience even more difficult, not only for Becky, but for Eric and Lisa as well.
I think that they sort of made a decision to step back from helping her. And so it was up and it was down, and it was God and the devil and light and dark and all these things. And that she was influenced by sometimes very small things. And those very small things became big things. And so sometimes the article was really odd and really going. And then other times it looked like it was going to blow up.
So part of the debate was, are we writing an article about something or are we being taken on a ride? It's never going to be an article anywhere for anyone. And that we're just going along on this ride and we're going to end up at the bottom of a ravine in the rocks. And we wanted to be responsible with somebody's life was about to share their biggest secret ever.
The article was published June 2010, and Becky's story is officially out there in the world. This led to many more media opportunities for Becky.
I'm not sure quite what the timing of this, but Oprah is finally winding down her show and Oprah says, would you like to be on with me? And she comes off very well on Oprah. Did you have you seen. I didn't watch her tape. OK, yeah.
So during the Oprah appearance, Oprah replays a clip from a nineteen eighty eight. Interview with Diane, where Oprah tries to find out the identity of Becky's father, but has only given what Diane claimed was the date of conception, which at the time was the only clue into her biological father's identity that Becky had.
There was only one other person who supposedly knew the identity of Becky's father and rule that he met with her on the twenty twenty piece when the show did a two hour feature on Becky and the case and took her to meet.
And when Becky asked to enroll who her father was, she refused to give out his name. Yeah, I think. And had made like a journalist deals to get the story and be able to keep the anonymity. And we all understand. And I figured, well, I mean, to be able to get that story, you've got to promise whatever the person wants to do.
I get the sense that he's right underneath our nose, that he's right in the area.
I get the sense that he also knows that she exists. Well, and I think the reason that you're probably right is because and was able to have what appears to be a conversation.
And that, I think is based also on the fact that she was a best selling author and people would come to her with details as people would stumble over themselves to get her.
That story and rule passed away in 2015. And thus the mystery of his father remains.
She's wondered who he is almost as long as she's known about her mother.
I mean, it would answer a lot of questions. She was talking about that since the day she walked into a pizza parlor. That's what she wanted and that's what she hopes for. And she believes that's just right around the corner. I came to meet Becky Bowcock 10 years ago while filming a documentary. We remained in contact through Facebook and discussed the backlash we'd sometimes received by coming forward in the media.
Some people, few believing we saw attention or fame, others knowing our true intention, our desire to connect with others out there so that they don't feel alone, that there are other women and men just like them who are related to perpetrators. And Becky's case, she didn't know who the bio dad was. I already knew my entire family background, which tremendously helped me to navigate my identity. So I wanted to help Becky get the answers she needed to know she isn't just like her mom.
That part of her is also rooted in another family. Another story.
I think it would be an interesting journey to go on, I have a little bit of a disconnect from Diane Downs. I never refer to her as my mom, and if anybody does, I quickly correct them and say biological because I was blessed to have great parents, which I talk about all the time, because I want them to know that even though I'm going on this journey, it has nothing to do with them not being good parents.
It was 10 years ago now that I first came forward with my secret, I had hidden the fact that my father was a serial killer because I was terrified of the public reaction and the potential fallout. It would have on my kids and myself. So I know exactly the risk when it comes to answering the call to find the truth.
There is no control. Had I remained silent, I would have probably never have met Becky or the numerous others that have reached out to me that have a killer on their family.
So I had such a positive experience. And so I thought, I know that in my case I had a lot of answers. And then your case of so many questions. Right. The other voice you're hearing is me. I had lost my voice on the day of this interview.
I do want to go on a journey to figure out who I am, where I came from, why I do the things that I do. And in a sense, I want to know all that so I can leave it in the past. I can stop all those questions. I can shut down that chapter and move on. And I think that that's really big for me right now, is I want to know these things because they've been questions I've had for such a huge part of my life.
It's funny, but my biggest fear is. My parents being disappointed that I'm public with such deep stories because my parents don't want to be public. It's interesting that even everything, the questions that I have violate their privacy, it does, and it's very, very difficult to talk in public because it's what I need, but it's not what they want and it hurts them. Even finding my biological father or, you know, going on this amazing quest, they're still in the back of my mind that they're going to be disappointed.
So there's parts of me that feel incredibly selfish and would shame myself for wanting this. But when I discovered my advice to you is that. There's no shame in wanting to know when you want to know and that I have come to learn that I'm not a selfish person for wanting answers, that there's no shame in that. Do you think you would get a sense of I knowing who your biological father is? What would that do for you? I almost don't want to know because I have this side of me that is from a monster and this other side of me that the other half of me that I don't know at this point, I can think that it's good to fill in the blanks.
Right. I can decide who he is and I can think that he's an amazing person.
Even if he's not as long as he's a decent human being, I'd be happy, but I'm scared to go on this journey because if he is deceased, what if he doesn't want me in his life? On this journey, we're going to go on what are your biggest questions that you would like answered?
Oh, my goodness, there's so many questions I have that I want to have answered throughout all this. I want to find my biological father, even if he doesn't want to find me, you know, at least I know and I can put that to rest. I want to find out medical history because I've gotten very sick as I've gotten older. And I want to see if that's in my history and if so, if there's anything to do about it, to see if I have any relatives out there that maybe want a relationship.
I have gone on this journey before in a similar fashion, not exactly in the footsteps you're going to walk, but I'd be honored to be your guide. Yeah, I love that. And to walk side by side with you and I will make every expert medical record anything you want. I will try my very best to provide that for you. If you're ready and committed to do this, I promise you on the other end you will be a different person in some sense of the word of that in a positive way.
I know that because it's not contingent on other people's contingent on what you want, right. And the fact that you're doing this for yourself, I'm honored to have you as my guide. Thank you so much. My first step with Becky is to take her to meet with the people she's avoided Diane's family, I would have never expected how that meeting would unfold.
Next week, join us as Becky and James Fredriksson meet for the first time. And a surprising letter Diane Downs gave to James to read to her.
James. This is Becky. Hi. Hi. Good to see you. Yeah. How is your trip? It was good. Yeah, that's good. Yeah.
How are you? I'm nervous getting through it.
Our executive producer is Ben Bulan, Melissa Moore is our co executive producer, Mihkel is our primary producer, and Paul Deckhand is our supervising producer. Our story editor is Matt Riddell. Research assistants from Sam Teagarden featured music by a dream tent. Happy Face Presents to Face is a production up by Hart Media.
Baby, love my baby, love. Hi, I'm Heidi Murkoff, host of What to Expect, a new podcast from My Heart Radio. When I first wrote What to Expect When You're Expecting I was pregnant with my daughter Emma, and my mission was simple to help parents know what to expect every step of the way. That mission has grown a lot, but it hasn't changed. Fast forward now, Amasa Mom. Hey, guys. We're teaming up to answer your biggest pregnancy and parenting questions.
From breastfeeding to sleep to tackling tantrum. Motherhood is the ultimate sisterhood, but it can be overwhelming if you don't know what to expect. Listen to what to expect on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast. Šamaš Are you ready, Mom? I was born ready.