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On the night of June 6th, 1996, Darlie Lynn Routier made a frantic call to 911. She told the dispatcher that she and her two sons had been stabbed.
Five minutes later, police arrived at Darlie’s home in Rowlett, a suburb of Dallas. Darlie’s eldest son, Devon, had already died from four knife wounds. He was just three days shy of his seventh birthday. His brother, five year old Damon, had also been attacked. Damon later died in the care of a paramedic.
Darlie had a deep gash in her neck and wounds on her arms. She was immediately transported to a local hospital for emergency surgery and survived.
Eight months later, Darlie Routier was convicted of killing her two young sons and sentenced to die by lethal injection. It is a verdict that her mother, Darlie Kee, refused to accept:
“I never thought that Darlie did this. Devon and Damon’s killer is running free, and that’s what this is about– the truth and finding justice for Devon and Damon. That’s the most important thing… we’ve got to save her life before they execute this innocent girl.”
Her family insists crucial evidence was overlooked during her trial. But authorities argue that their case against Darlie Lynn Routier is overwhelming.
Darlie claims she too was attacked on the night her sons were murdered. Shortly after her surgery, Rowlett police detectives interviewed Darlie.
While still sedated, Darlie told investigators that on the night of the attack, she, Devon, and Damon had fallen asleep in the downstairs family room while watching TV. Her husband, Darin, was sleeping upstairs with their eight month old son, Drake.
According to Darlie, at 2:30 AM, she suddenly awoke and saw a man hovering over her with a knife. The man then fled so Darlie followed him into the utility room where she found a knife. She picked it up to defend herself in case the man returned. Darlie told police that it was only then that she realized she was injured and her boys had been attacked.
Her husband Darin was also interviewed by Rowlett homicide detectives:
“I hear this scream. I run down the stairs. Darlie at that point is yelling, ‘Devon, Devon, Devon, Devon, Devon, Devon.’ I mean, she’s just freaking. I get to Devon and he’s got these two huge gashes in the top of his chest and he’s laying face up, I mean, just blinking his eyes. You know, I’m thinking CPR, I prop his head back, I start blowing into his mouth, and as soon as I blow into his mouth, air comes out of his chest. Blood splatters all over me. Not only have you just been woken up to the worst nightmare in your whole life, your child is dying in front of you. And you just, you don’t know what to do.”
Investigators did not question Darin’s story. But they were troubled by Darlie’s statement. They didn’t understand how she could have slept through the attack and not give a clear description of her assailant. Sgt. Dean Poos of the Rowlett Police Dept. was assigned to the case:
“When it came time to describe the so-called suspect, she was unable to describe the person, even though the person was supposedly kneeling or sitting, standing on top of her.”
At the crime scene, investigators reportedly were not finding evidence to corroborate Darlie’s version of events. They discovered the alleged entry and exit point of the killer—an open window in the garage that had its screen slashed. Yet there was an undisturbed layer of dust on the windowsill, suggesting that no one came through it. Detectives also found a long bleached-blond hair in the cut screen. At the time of the attack, Darlie Routier had long bleached-blond hair.
Police found nothing missing from the home and ruled out robbery as a motive. Sgt. Poos believed that the blood evidence didn’t support the story of an intruder:
“The lack of a blood trail leading from the crime scene, continuing out the path that the intruder supposedly took was problematic to say the least. This individual miraculously manages to keep any sense of blood or any evidence off of him, doesn’t leave any footprints. All the blood’s contained in one area. That was one of the things that again did not jibe with her story.”
Another puzzling clue was discovered in an alley three houses down from Darlie’s home. There investigators found a tube sock with small amounts of blood from the two murdered boys. According to Sgt. Poos, the sock was part of a cover-up:
“One of the characteristics of cases, where mothers are involved in the killing of children is that after the fact, there’s a very amateuristic cover-up… No one wants to believe that a mother would do something like this to their children. But at some point, when you’re presented with this type of overwhelming physical evidence, you have to start accepting some of it.”
A week and a half after the murders, Darlie was interrogated by a detective reportedly known for extracting confessions from suspects. According to Sgt. Poos, Darlie stated that if she did commit the murders, she had no recollection. The detective who conducted the interview said it was never recorded.
Darlie’s mother was confident that her daughter never made the incriminating statement:
“It should have been audiotaped and videotaped. But yet on this high-profile case, he didn’t have an audiotape or a videotape, which I think is a total lie.”
Darlie’s attorneys and investigators say that the evidence used against her was flawed. Lloyd Harrell was a private investigator for the defense:
“When the officers examined the window which had been cut, they found there was no dust disturbed on the window sill, and also found a blond hair stuck into the screen area. They assumed that blond hair was Darlie’s. Later, that hair, through DNA examination, was determined to belong to a Rowlett police officer. The window sill is 10 inches off the floor. If you went through the window and crouched down and put one leg through the window, it’s more probable you wouldn’t disturb the dust than you would disturb the dust.”
The prosecution opened their case by offering the state’s theory of the crime. According to the state, Darlie Routier was a selfish woman whose extravagant lifestyle was being threatened by the responsibilities of motherhood. The prosecution insinuated that if her two boys were dead, Darlie could collect on their life insurance and resume her wild ways.
The District Attorney argued that Darlie, suffering from postpartum depression, slit her own throat, and then tried to make it appear that an intruder had committed the crime.
During the trial, a medical examiner testified that Darlie’s wounds were superficial and self-inflicted. But the defense introduced medical records showing that the knife slash to Darlie’s neck came within 1/16 of an inch of severing her carotid artery. A wound this severe would have instantly killed her.
The defense also attacked the theory that she committed the murders to collect on her boys’ life insurance policy, which totaled $5,000. According to Darlie’s attorney, if money was the motive, why wouldn’t she kill her husband who was insured for $800,000?
The prosecution countered with a blood spatter expert. Virtually all of the blood on Darlie’s shirt was her own. But there was one tiny bloodstain on the back that contained both Devon and Damon’s blood.
The prosecution also played a videotape for the jury. Eight days after the murders, a news crew captured video of the Routier family celebrating Devon’s seventh birthday posthumously.
Darlie was on painkillers, antibiotics, and antidepressants but joined her family in singing Happy Birthday. After viewing the tape, Sgt. Poos believed Darlie’s behavior was not consistent with that of a grieving mother.
Darlie defended her behavior:
“That was a celebration of Devon’s birthday. We had invitations sent out. We had presents already bought. And he was murdered three days before we got to have his party… It’s done out of memory to them. They twisted that and made that into something ugly.”
During deliberations, the jury watched the video eight times. It took them ten hours to reach a guilty verdict. Darlie Routier was immediately taken to death row at Gatesville State Prison.
Darlie’s family and attorneys claim that during the investigation and trial, crucial details were overlooked. They say that the photos of her wounds were not properly presented to the jury. After the trial, one of the jurors who convicted Darlie, Charles Samford, had a chance to take a close look at the pictures:
“After I saw the pictures, it made me feel that she’s not guilty. She did not cut herself, and that she put up a heck of a fight to protect her own self. I believe with all my heart that Dara Lynn Routier is innocent. There’s not a doubt in my mind.”
Lloyd Harrell, Darlie’s attorney, also points to the tube sock found 75 yards from the crime scene:
“The sock contains both boys’ blood and probably epithelial, or skin, DNA of Darlie. There are no bloodstains that belong to Darlie on the sock. So it obviously had to be touched by someone after both boys had been stabbed, who also had contact with Darlie.”
Darlie’s supporters say that examining the timeline that night makes the prosecution’s account of the murders impossible.
Medical testimony established that Damon could not have lived for more than nine minutes after his fatal stab wound and that he did not die until the paramedics arrived. So before they arrived, the following events must have happened.
Darlie talked to a 911 operator for five minutes and 40 seconds of those nine minutes. The police secured the crime scene for an additional two of the nine minutes before paramedics were let in. That leaves Darlie Routier approximately a minute and a half to place the sock 75 yards down the street, stage a crime scene, and then cut her own throat.
Darlie’s family believed unidentified fingerprints at the crime scene belong to the intruder. A fingerprint on the door leading to the garage, and a second print on the credenza behind the couch, have never been positively identified by investigators.
Her family also believed the attacker may have been a sexual predator. A series of violent rapes occurred in the Dallas area at the same time as the Routier murders. These crimes were quite similar to the attack on Darlie and her children. The assailant entered the unlocked homes of victims, attacked them with knives found in the kitchen, and wore tube socks over his hands to avoid leaving fingerprints.
Darlie’s lawyers continue to appeal her sentence. If and when those appeals are exhausted, Darlie Lynn Routier will be executed.