Darlie Routier: Over Twenty Years on Death Row
Who Was Darlie Routier, and What Did She Do?
Darlie Routier (pronounced "rue-tier") is an American woman who lived in Rowlett, Texas, and was accused and convicted of murdering her five-year-old son, Damon. Her six-year-old, Devon, also died that night; however, she was not tried for his murder. The text from her indictment reads: "the Defendant, on or about the 6th day of June, A. D., 1996, in the County of Dallas, and said State did unlawfully, then and there, intentionally and knowingly cause the death of Damon Christian Routier, an individual, hereinafter called the deceased, by stabbing said Damon Christian Routier with a knife."
Darlie had no history of mental illness. She was not abusive to her sons. And her youngest son, seven-month-old Drake, and husband, Darin, were unharmed. There seems to be conflicting evidence, such as the police suggesting that Darlie's wounds were self-inflicted and Darlie claiming that a man attacked her and her sons.
Some say there is more to this trial than the official investigation showed.
Let's take a look.
The Timeline and the Individuals Involved
- June 6th 1996 2:31 AM: Darlie makes a frantic phone call to the police, alleging that someone broke into the home and stabbed her and her two children.
- June 18th 1996: Darlie is arrested.
- February 1997: The trial is moved from Dallas to Kerrsville, a small and conservative town with a high murder-conviction rate.
- February 4th 1997: Darlie is convicted of murdering Damon and sentenced to death by lethal injection.
- May 2003: Darlie appeals, and the appeal is denied.
- 2011: Darlie and Darin's divorce is finalized.
- Darlie Routier: The woman the case centers around. Accused of and convicted of killing her five-year-old son, Damon.
- Darin Routier: Darlie's husband from 1988-2011. He upholds Darlie's innocence to this day.
- Damon Routier: Darlie and Darin's five-year-old son. Was found DOA.
- Devon Routier: Darlie and Darin's six-year-old son. Died on the way to the hospital.
- Drake Routier: Darlie and Darin's youngest son. He was seven months old at the time of the murders.
- Greg Davis: One of the lead prosecutors.
- Toby Shook: One of the lead prosecutors.
- Tom Bevel: A blood spatter expert who testified for the defense. He has since been involved in a sizable number of false convictions due, at least in part, to his erroneous "expert" testimony.
- Doug Parks: Darlie's initial court-appointed attorney. He was eventually replaced by the famous defense attorney Doug Mulder.
- Stephen Cooper: An attorney who has been representing Darlie for the last twenty or so years.
- Doug Mulder: Darlie Routier's attorney and was a bit of a celebrity attorney in Texas.
- Jimmy Patterson: A Rowlett, Texas, police officer investigating the case.
- James Cron: A forensic consultant who was asked by the Rowlett police to help investigate the Routier crime scene. You can read his testimony.
- Terry Laber: A forensic specialist who was primed by the defense to refute Tom Bevel's claims. For whatever reason, the defense never called him.
Before the Murders
Darlie moved to Lubbock as a teenager with her mom and stepdad. She met Darin in a Western Sizzlin' where her mother worked and where Darin was a cook. He was 17, and she was 15. They married four years later.
After moving to the Dallas area, he began his own small company called Testnec that tested electronic components. When he became a success in the early nineties, they bought a nice house and spent thousands getting it just how they wanted. Darin bought a thirty-foot cabin cruiser and a 1982 Jaguar. They went a little wild with their money, and Darlie bought new boobs and flashy jewelry.
The neighbors never saw them as wild though. Four of her friends attested that she was an excellent mother and a kind, warm, fun-loving person. She often had the neighborhood kids over and baked cookies for them. Those kids stood up for her against the accusation that she killed her sons.
All of a sudden, their business went downhill, and they allegedly got behind on their bills. They supposedly owed $10,000 in back taxes and $12,000 on credit cards, which isn't an especially noteworthy amount of debt for a newly married couple who just bought a house.
There was a very brief entry in Darlie's diary that was about suicide. My doctor once asked me if I had ever thought about suicide, and my answer was, "Hasn't everyone?" He laughed because it was true. Maybe to different extents, but if you know the world, you have thought about it. If you have something you just think you can't face, you may think about suicide. So I consider that pretty normal and nothing to even consider in anyone's sanity.
Thirty is coming up, and to some in their twenties, that looks old! It is nothing serious, but a little something as I say—and combined with all else going on with her—she probably was suffering from slight depression, which seems normal everything considered. And that does not a murderer make.
The Night of the Murders
The timeline for the night of the murders went something like this:
Darlie called 911 around 2:30 AM, frantically trying to relay that someone had broken in, stabbed the boys, and attacked her. She claimed to have woken up to someone being on top of her. Darin and their youngest son were upstairs during the time of the attack, and they were unharmed. The police arrive about 3:41 seconds into the 911 phone call.
Devon was pronounced DOA, and Damon—barely alive—died on the way to the hospital.
Let's Examine the Evidence
Did Darlie Routier Do It or Not?
That's a really great question. While I have my beliefs, let's go through each hotly contended aspect of the trial so that you can come to your own conclusions, and then I'll tell you have I feel.
Inexperienced Police Force
Several of the documentaries note that the Rowlett police department was inexperienced at investigating murder cases because they simply didn't have many murders occur in their precinct. For instance, you can actually hear the police officers arrive at around 3 min and 48 seconds into the call. Wadell, one of the responding officers, didn’t sign off on the 911 call. You always say “I’m 10-7. I’m on the call.” Wadell does not do this. You can hear someone speaking to her, but it's in the background and muffled. She may be answering Wadell’s questions. He claims that he told her to help her son, but Darlie didn’t get the towels like he said she should. Darin claims he told Wadell to give Damon CPR, and Wadell did not. Why didn’t the trained police officer help?
The Rowlett police department had never had a case like this, and there was a lot of public pressure to solve this case—especially because it came on the heels of the Susan Smith case, which we'll discuss later on.
Terry Laber, one of the defense's expert witnesses (even though he was never called to the stand), claims that James Cron made his determinations about the crime scene after being there for only twenty minutes. You'll recall that Cron was one of the civilian investigators that the Rowlett police department brought in to help investigate the crime scene.
Evidence collection isn't a foolproof objective task. When evidence is collected, investigators decide what to look for and where. If they think someone is guilty and has committed a crime a certain way, they will likely look for evidence to corroborate that theory rather than taking all of the scene's evidence. For instance, if they thought that someone cut the window screen at the Routier house, they'd look for evidence that supports that theory. Dan Simon, a professor of law and psychology at USC, explains the bias inherent in evidence collection in The Last Defense.
James Cron, by his own admission, said that he came to the conclusion that an outsider did not commit this crime. How could he have decided that so quickly? His proclamation that this was an inside job undoubtedly influenced investigators—perhaps to the point where crucial evidence was overlooked or ignored.
Simon, the law professor, claims that "Sometimes peoples’ beliefs or conclusions or hypotheses drive their perception of the evidence." In other words, this all could have been subconscious bias. It isn't necessarily an active choice in some ways.
Additionally, the traditional chain of command was not followed in this case, meaning that there was ample opportunity for cross contamination.
And it seems worth mentioning that some facts were simply glossed over or misrepresented. For instance, the prosecution argued that someone didn't break into the house because there was no evidence—besides the slashed window screen—of a break in. According to them, there were no footprints leading to the window, and the dust on the windowsill was not disturbed. The prosecution didn't mention the the windowsill was nine to ten inches off the ground, so you wouldn't have to touch the sill to get in. And that the driveway was made of cement, so of course there wouldn't be prints!
Character Assassination/Trial by Media
The prosecution made Darlie out to seem like a superficial, vapid, vain woman who cared more about money and looks than her children. However, her friends, family, and neighbors thought very differently of her. They thought she was an exquisitely loving mother and an excellent neighbor. Julie Clark, one of her neighbors, said that Darlie always had popsicles for the kids and was just a fun, loving person. Richard Smith, another one of her attorneys, said that "Character evidence is supposed to be completely inadmissible because it allows the state to obtain a conviction without actually proving the crime itself, and it was the centerpiece of this trial."
Dan Simon, a USC professor of psychology and law, said that “Persuasion can occur in the form of evidence… but when we don't have good, rational ways to persuade one another, we appeal to emotion, innuendo, and stereotypes. They’re not the most principled ways to prove a legal case, but these are all very effective ways to persuade someone.” And this exactly what the prosecution did to Darlie: they asked about her spending habits, her breast implants, and about her social status. Kathy Cruz who wrote Dateline: Purgatory about the Routier case argues that "It wasn’t just character judgements that were used against Darlie—it was Texas character judgements.” You can be a good mother and want to be beautiful. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Richard Mosty, one of Darlie's defense attorneys, summarizes the prosecution's strategy quite effectively: “When you pile on all those things—from an evidentiary standpoint, they don’t add up to anything. But that’s not the purpose. The purpose is to create prejudice against her. So when what facts they have do come out, there’s already a tainted person in front of them.”
The prosecution really went after Darlie as a person, rather than focusing on the facts of the case. They also showed the nurses, who gave testimony, photos of the butchered boys for no apparent reason. They boys were not treated by the nurses at Baylor. Dan Simon notes that “Exposing people to gory photos of butchered children is bound to have an effect on them. And research shows, by the way, that showing simulated jurors gory photos indeed increases their tendency to convict the person because it causes the unrecognized desire to find the culprit.” Jody Fitts, one of the Baylor nurses who treated Darlie, said that the prosecution didn't ask them any questions about the photos, nor did they treat the children—so there was really no reason to show the nurses the photos.
Glass in the Hallway: There was a call to explain how and why Darlie's blood was under broken glass, which Cron (a civilian investigator that Rowlett asked to help consult the investigation) claimed was evidence that Darlie didn't go back into the room after the glass fell because there were no cuts on her feet. However, when the inexperienced officers arrived on the scene, securing the scene wasn't the priority; saving the boys was. This means that the scene was in chaos; it's absolutely possible that the glass was knocked over during the tumult of trying to save the boys. At best, this evidence seems circumstantial. Barry Dickey, an audio expert interviewed by Forensic Files, claimed that you can tell by the audio quality that Darlie is frantically moving rooms.
Blood on the Shirt: Tom Bevel, a blood-stain expert who wrote Bloodstain Pattern Analysis, claimed that several small drops of blood on the back right shoulder of Darlie's nightshirt were indicative of excessive force that could only have been placed there by an extremely aggressive stabbing motion full of violence and hatred. He "proved" his theory by making exaggerated stabbing motions on a dummy and getting similar results. Bevel admits that he didn't take notes on how his experiment could be recreated. He says that he was instructed by Mr. Davis (the lead prosecutor) not to take notes. Laber and Bart Epstein, two forensic experts for the defense, claimed that Bevel's experiment that "proved" the blood on Darlie's shirt had to come from angrily stabbing someone was nonsense.
Bloody Footprints: Luminol revealed that some blood and bloody footprints had been cleaned up before the police got there. Darlie's blood footprints were found on top of these cleaned-up ones.
Bloody Knife Outline in the Living Room: There was bloody knife outline that Bevel claimed was likely made by someone who was profusely bleeding and holding a knife. To the prosecution, this suggested that Darlie was the one holding the knife, since her wounds would have been bleeding profusely. Darlie admits in the 911 phone call to having picked up the knife and potentially messed up the fingerprints.
Lack of Motive
Robbery doesn't seem to have been a motive because nothing appeared to have been taken from the scene of the crime. Insurance fraud also doesn't seem to have been a motive seeing as the boys' funerals cost more than their life insurance policies. They each had a 5K life insurance policy on them; the cost of the funeral was somewhere between 10-12K. You also don't have to prove motive in Texas.
Moving the Trial From Dallas to Kerrville
Doug Parks, Darlie's court-appointed attorney, made a mistake and requested that Darlie's trial be moved to Kerrville county instead of Dallas. Parks accidentally played into the prosecution's hands. Kerrville was notoriously conservative and has an disproportionately high murder-conviction rate. Recognizing his mistake, Parks asked for the trial to be moved back to Dallas county, but the motion was denied.
Came on the Heels of Susan Smith
Susan Smith is a woman from South Carolina who was accused of murdering her two children. She was convicted in 1995 of drowning her two sons. The case was a national sensation. Smith initially claimed that an African American man had carjacked the family and driven off with her two sons in tow. This was later proved false. She had a history of mental illness, depression, and attempted suicide. Skip Holland, interviewed on The Last Defense, argues that “Everyone was thinking that this [the Routier trial] was the Dallas version of that [the Susan Smith case].” So the public's perception (including the potential jurors') was undoubtedly colored by this crime.
The prosecution claimed that Darlie's wounds were self-inflicted and superficial. One of her wounds was a slash to the throat that came with 2cm of her carotid artery. Your carotid artery is one of your major blood vessels that supplies blood to your brain. According to at least one study, you don't typically stab yourself in the neck if you're trying to fake wounds. An in-depth study with graphic photos demonstrates some of the differences between self-inflicted and assault- or accident-inflicted wounds. It seems unlikely that Darlie's wounds were self-inflicted.
The Diary Entry
Darlie wrote in her diary about contemplating suicide. In The Last Defense, Greg Davis says, “Mothers don’t usually contemplate suicide, either.” And this simply isn't true. Postpartum depression is a well-documented and researched—and legitimate—thing that affects many women. Cheryl Meyer, a psychologist and author who wrote Mothers Who Kill, says that postpartum depression is pretty common, and it doesn't necessarily translate into murdering your children. She goes on to say that “I don’t see anything in there about harming the children or taking them out of the future equation.”
The Bloody Sock
There was a bloody sock found about two streets away. The sock did have Damon and Darin's blood on it, and the sock was one of Darin's from the utility room. That means that the sock was present at the time of the murders; however, the prosecution never explained how the sock got there (or how Darlie would have had the time to run down the alley, plant the sock, and get back to the house before the police arrived). Why would an intruder take a sock but leave the murder weapon? Why would someone leave the sock in plain sight?
Single Fiberglass Fiber
Investigators found a single fiberglass fiber on the bread knife that was in the knife block. The only fiberglass source that they could find in the vicinity was the window screen that was cut. In some ways, this suggests that the knife may have been used to cut the screen, implicating the Routiers. However, another expert notes that single fibers are notoriously mobile. It could have come from anywhere and just settled there, including the fact that it could have migrated from the window screen after it had been cut and gone into the knife block. If investigators dusted the screen first and then dusted the knives, it's possible that a single fiber could have been transferred from the screen to the knife. This is why alleging things based on a single fiber is tenuous at best.
Darlie was treated at Baylor hospital, and the nurses who treated her gave inconsistent testimony. In their notes, the nurses note that Darlie is sobbing and asking about her children. On the stand, several of the nurses called her "whiney," which is a very specific word choice. When questioned, the nurses said:
Nurse Diane Hollon: “We were supposed to meet at 12:00 noon in Toby’s room.”
Doug Mulder: “And who’s ‘we’?”
Hollon: “Everybody, all the Baylor people.”
This is called "preparing the witness," and the ethics of it are a bit questionable. There's a pretty thin line between preparing and coaching. It seems possible, given the specific use of language that wasn't noted anywhere in the original nursing notes, that they may have been coached to say these things or use this language. Why would medical professionals call someone who had just been viciously attacked "whiney"?
Birthday Party Footage
The birthday party film that was viewed by the jury showed Darlie, family, and friends celebrating his birthday near her son's grave. It did not show the hours previous to that scene where Darlie sobbed and grieved over the graves with her husband Darin. Why was the entire footage not shown? In The Last Defense, a 2018 docu-series about the Routier murders, juror number eight claimed that Darlie's actions were "disgusting" and that "they wouldn't have liked this." How does she know? She isn't the expert on these children. The prosecutor also claimed to be "sickened" by her behavior. But trying to be normal in the face of overwhelming tragedy doesn't seem that unrealistic. Dr. Gregory Davis says that there are essentially as many manifestations of grief as there are human beings (The Last Defense). Darin also said that "We chose the song ‘Gansta’s Paradise’ for their funeral because it was their favorite song. We really didn’t think twice about whether or not it was appropriate—it was still their favorite song… that’s how we wanted to honor them."
A bloody fingerprint taken from her living room coffee table was demonstrated by no less than three experts to not belong to anyone living in her home. Two more fingerprints in the utility room and door leading to the garage were also shown to not belong to Darlie, anyone in the family, or anyone investigating the crime. Darlie thinks the murderer escaped the home after attacking her and her two sons. The court will not grant the evidential hearing necessary to investigate and evaluate this evidence.
Taken from the utility room door is a patent bloody fingerprint—this is the first one. Forensic fingerprint analyst Glenn Langenburg positively proved that the prints do not belong to Darlie. Robert Lohnes also claimed that the fingerprint did not belong to Darlie. Her exclusion indicates that an unknown third party not only deposited this print, but deposited it in blood on the night of the murders.
In addition, Langenburg currently is conducting a second examination of the bloody fingerprint on the utility room door to determine whether Darin Routier can also be excluded as the source of this print. If, as Darlie expects, Darin Routier is not the source of this print, Darlie definitively will have demonstrated that an unknown third party deposited two separate fingerprints, one of them in the victims' blood, while fleeing the scene on the night of the murders.
How Long Would it Take to Make all These Wounds?
How do you feel?
Do you think without a reasonable doubt that Darlie is guilty?
Injuries Authentic?Click thumbnail to view full-size
I Believe That Darlie Deserves a New Trial
It is impossible to believe how much trouble the legal system will go to to make things turn out the way they want. She lost everything that day. She lost two children to a vicious murder, and she cannot even get back her youngest son. The evidence presented against her was circumstantial at best.
My View of Her Changed As I Got More Evidence
When I saw Darlie dancing around her children's graves, spraying silly string, laughing, and acting so happy I thought, "of course, she killed those babies." I was filled with hate, seeing her acting this way and those babies of hers, murdered and in the ground beneath her.
I can't say that I accept this behavior even now. People are different, and I know they are. It still doesn't make them guilty of murder. I really felt so guilty the more I listened, read, and learned. I am not the only one with a change of mind.
With Darlie, what I did not see was the same as what others did not see: proof. How long will our rotten, dirty judicial system keep getting by with having their say—right or wrong—and hiding information to make trials go the way they want? Why do they continually do this? What I and the jury did not see was Darlie's horrible cut and bruised black arms and hands—defensive wounds, without a doubt.
I have read many true crime books, and it seems like obscuring information and twisting it is almost a common thing. The law wants to solve a crime so quickly that some idiot decides how it happened and then makes sure it looks that way.
Here's Why I Began to Doubt This Case
There are many things missing in this case.
- The screen that was mis-reported as being cut from the inside.
- Possible improper read-back of testimony to the jury by the court reporter.
- The pictures of Darlie's cuts and bruises on her arms which were taken when she was hospitalized the night of the murders.
- The prosecution's refusal to provide access to any evidence in their custody in the case.
- A lack of sufficient DNA testing.
- Some writers who have interviewed Darlie Routier have decided to help her fight to get a new trial. Since reporting their opinions on her situation, they report that their ability to visit her has been blocked or made so inconvenient that little can be accomplished.
- During the trial investigators invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination during cross examination, preventing the defense from rebutting their testimony. Why? This alone would be reason for disbelief and a new trial!
Video Resources, Sources, and Further Information
If you are looking for documentaries and further resources, here are some helpful videos.
- Forensic Files Season 4 Episode 1 explores the Routier case in a more or less even-handed way, but ultimately seems to believe that she did murder her children.
- The Last Defense is a docu-series, and the first four episodes explore the Routier case in meticulous detail.
- Ashleigh Banfield of CNN discusses how she was there for the original trial, thought Darlie had to be guilty, and then saw a show that cast serious doubt on her guilt.
- Darlie's case was also investigated by a show called The Investigators.
- 20/20 ran a segment in 1999 and updated it in 2000 called "Her Own Flesh and Blood" that is a strong investigation of what was missed and glossed over.
- Barbara Davis, the author of Precious Angels, walks through what she argues are 14 myths of the trial.
© 2010 Pollyannalana