Darlie Routier: Wrongfully Convicted of Murdering Her Children
“Because of what happened to that woman in Texas.”—John Ramsey, when asked why he obtained legal counsel immediately following his daughter, JonBenet’s, murder.
On June 6th, 1996, someone brutally murdered two little boys and got away with it. Their mother has been fighting to get off of death row for 22 years.
At around 2:30 in the morning of June 6, 1996, Rowlett homemaker Darlie Routier awoke on her family room couch to see the silhouette of a man walking away from her in the dark. Groggy and confused, Darlie instinctively followed the man through her kitchen toward the utility room that leads out to a garage. As the man made his escape, he dropped a large butcher knife onto the floor. Darlie picked up the knife without thinking about it and headed back to the family room where she and her young sons had fallen asleep. Her husband, Darin, and 7-month-old son Drake were asleep in an upstairs bedroom and were not harmed. She turned on the lights to find that she and her children had been stabbed and were soaked in blood, thus beginning the worst nightmare and biggest fight of her life.
Darlie was arrested 12 days later on June 18, 1996. She was tried for the murder of her youngest son, 5-year-old Damon, found guilty, and sentenced to death on February 4, 1997. Although her older son, 6-year-old Devon, died as well, the prosecution claims that they only charged her with Damon's murder because as a child under the age of 6, his murder qualified for capital punishment under Texas law. They also stated that had Darlie been acquitted of Damon's murder, they could have then charged her with Devon's murder, doubling their chances of an almighty conviction (hmmm, perhaps their case was not as strong as they would like us to believe?).
What the prosecution does not say is that there was no evidence of Devon's blood present on the knife that was recovered from the Routier home; only Damon and Darlie's blood were present. To this day, they cannot prove that Devon was attacked with the same knife, and many speculate that there were indeed two intruders in the house that night, one who brought his own knife and one who used the butcher knife from the kitchen.
Even now, 23 years later, Darlie Routier still maintains that she is innocent and that someone broke into the home and attacked her and her children.
The Routier's Home at 5801 Eagle Drive
The Angels: Devon Rush Routier and Damon Christian RoutierClick thumbnail to view full-size
Why It Looked Bad
Police, and lead prosecutors Greg Davis and Toby Shook, claimed the crime scene was staged and Darlie inflicted her injuries upon herself. Their reasoning for this conclusion included the following factors:
- The murder weapon came from the house.
- No valuables were taken.
- Blood spatter analysis was inconsistent with Darlie's version of events.
- Drops of blood from the boys consistent with castoff from the blade were found on the back of Darlie's night shirt.
- A large amount of blood was found in front of the sink, indicating she stood there bleeding for some time.
- Fibers believed to be from a sliced screen were discovered adhering to a bread knife from the kitchen.
- A diary entry from May 3rd indicating that Darlie was contemplating suicide.
- The Routier's had seen a significant drop in income from the previous year, had credit card debt, were a month behind on their mortgage, and owed back taxes to the IRS.
- Darin had applied—and been turned down for—a $5,000 loan on June 1st.
- A videotape of a graveside birthday celebration for Darlie's son depicted a smiling Darlie, chewing gum and spraying Silly String while singing "Happy Birthday."
Darlie's "Superficial, Self-Inflicted Wounds"
Darlie's Differing Accounts of the Attack
This is one of the things that hurt Darlie the most. She gave several accounts of how she woke up and the order of events that followed.
- In the first account, she awoke to see a man standing at the edge of the couch, walking away from her toward the kitchen.
- In another account, she was awakened by Damon pushing on her shoulder, saying, "Mommy."
- In yet another account, she was awoken by the sound of breaking glass.
- In one account she fought with the intruder.
- In another, she has no memory of fighting with him.
So which one is true? All of them, most likely. Let's be real about this: Darlie did not "sleep" through Devon and Damon being stabbed and her own assault. She was in and out of consciousness, and for the time that she was conscious, she would have been in fight-or-flight mode.
Recent research has shown that short-term stress can damage the brain, taking minutes—not months—to impact neurons responsible for learning and memory. Scientists at the University of California, Irvine, found that acute stress activates selective molecules called corticotropin releasing hormones. Like cortisol, these hormones disrupt the process by which the brain collects and stores memories. It is not unlike being injured and knocked out during a car accident. When you wake up, you may know intellectually what happened, but have no memory of the crash itself. You might believe you remember the screech of brakes, the smell of burnt rubber, the smashing of metal upon metal, the windshield shattering...when in reality, this "memory" does not exist at all. It's simply the brain's powerful way of attempting to align known facts with what you believe must have happened.
Traumatic Amnesia or Selective Amnesia?
Everything Darlie relayed to the police, to her family, and everyone else, were most likely disjointed pieces of memories put together to the best of her ability. Did she struggle with the intruder? According to her arms, she certainly did. If she was laying on the couch, and a man with a knife mounted her, the first thing anyone would do would be to raise their arms up defensively, thus accounting for the black and blue bruising up and down her arms.
Some people theorize that the bruising was a result of Devon kicking at her while she was stabbing him, since he did show signs of defensive injuries. At the time of his death, Devon weighed 46 lbs. I'm not saying it's impossible for his kicking to have caused that bruising, but it is improbable. Aside from his weight, the attack on Devon was brutal and swift. If Devon had caused that kind of bruising, he had to have been kicking at her inner arms for a prolonged period of time—a period of time that was longer than his actual attack.
If Darlie is only able to relay bits and pieces of what happened, then obviously there is certain information, perhaps vital information, that is missing. How can the crime scene and the evidence be expected to match her story, when she can only give part of the story?
When someone comes up with a cover story, they've usually got their details in order before they start talking. They already know exactly what they're going to say, and they don't deviate from it. The fact that Darlie's story did change somewhat is a powerful indicator that she is actually telling the truth, or as much of it as she can remember.
The same reasoning applies to Darlie's inter-changing usage of the pronouns "he" and "they." This is actually quite common when victims refer to an unknown assailant or assailants. A liar already has their story prepared in their mind. They know whether they are going to say it was one person or two, a man or a woman, etc. In Darlie's case, she probably subconsciously realized there had been more than one person, but since she only has a memory of seeing one of them, her confusion is understandable.
Officer Waddell's Testimony
There are a multitude of problems with the investigation, the case against Darlie, and the conviction, and I'm going to outline some of those concerns in this article. My biggest concern is the outright lies told by Officer David Waddell, the first policeman on the scene. Waddell testified that when he first pulled up to the house, he saw a man (Darin Routier) coming out of the front door into the yard. Waddell stated that he approached the man, gun drawn, and asked Darin to identify himself. This did not happen.
I do not believe that Waddell encountered or spoke to Darin when he first arrived, and here's why: if you listen to the 911 call, at 3 minutes and 29 seconds, Darlie asks Darin if the children are dead. His reply cannot be heard; he may have answered non-verbally with a nod, but he's in the room with Darlie when she asks the question. It can be reasonably assumed that his reply is affirmative, since she immediately becomes even more hysterical and screams, "Oh my God!"
Keep in mind, Darlie is on the phone with 911 and Darin is attempting to perform CPR on Devon, who is not breathing. The CPR is taking place in the Roman room (family room, den, whatever you want to call it) which is toward the back of the house, past the kitchen area. Look at the floor plan of the Routier's first floor to get a better idea of where they were positioned. Now, at exactly 3:41 into the call, Waddell enters the home; you can actually hear the door as he enters. So riddle me this: how is it possible that Darin can make it all the way through the house, out the front door, into the yard, wait for Waddell to get out of the police car, walk up to him, and ask him to identify himself...in the span of 12 seconds? The Guilters (those that believe in Darlie's guilt) will be quick to point out right here that Waddell's version of events is backed up by the eyewitness testimony of Darlie's neighbor across the street, Bill Gorsuch...but it isn't.
The Testimony of Bill Gorsuch
Bill Gorsuch was a neighbor across the street who worked nights and usually came home between 1:50 and 2:00 in the morning. He testified that on the morning of June 6, 1996, he had just settled into bed and drifted off when he had his sleep broken by some kind of noise or commotion. He did not become fully awake nor did he look at the clock.
A short time later, he was fully awoken by the sound of Darin yelling. This time, he looked out the window and saw Darin running from the front yard, past the fountain and to the sidewalk yelling, "Someone just stabbed my wife and kids!"
When questioned about the time this took place, Gorsuch testified during direct examination that he looked at the clock and it was 2:40 am. He reiterated the time during cross examination, and was adamant that his clock is set for the actual, precise time, and not a few minutes fast as some people are prone to do. He testified that he saw Darin and Officer Waddell together in the yard, and saw them go into the house together. He also stated that he never actually saw the police officer get out of the car. I do not doubt Gorsuch's testimony; to me, it proves that when he saw Darin and Waddell go into the house, it was several minutes after Waddell first arrived. Darlie's 911 call came in at 2:31 am. You hear Waddell come into the house at 3 minutes and 41 seconds into the call, meaning he was inside by 2:34 am. It is known that Darin did go outside to get help from Karen Neal, another neighbor across the street who happened to be a nurse. That is when Gorsuch saw Darin and Waddell outside, at 2:40 am. Darlie had already ended the call with 911 by that time, so obviously, this is not when Waddell first arrived on the scene. I'm stunned that Darlie's lead defense attorney Doug Mulder did not immediately jump on this discrepancy...but I have long suspected that Mulder may have purposely "thrown" this case, for reasons known only to him.
BY MR. TOBY L. SHOOK:
Q. So it's clear, did you -- were you able to determine what time it was when you woke up with Darin yelling?
A. It was approximately 2:40.
A. I have a clock, an alarm clock beside the bed, and, as I recall it was around 2:40.
Q. Okay. Did you look at the clock when you woke up?
Q. At 2:40 in the morning?
BY MR. DOUG MULDER:
Q. Okay. All right. Now, you were first awakened, and like you said, you didn't understand what the noise was, but apparently you drifted back off to sleep?
Q. And then were awakened -- what awakened you the second time, do you know?
A. Darin yelling.
Q. Okay. And, is that when you looked at the clock?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. Okay. Is your -- you know, sometimes I'll set my clock a little bit fast just so that hopefully I get where I'm supposed to be on time. Do you set yours right -- I bet you set yours right on the money, don't you?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Okay. So, it was 2:40 you're telling us?
Q. A guy like you would keep an accurate clock, wouldn't he?
A. I suppose so, yes.
Q. All right. And, you're telling this jury that it was 2:40 when Darin started to yell?
It is my personal belief that the noise Gorsuch first heard, before coming fully awake, was the sound of Darlie screaming out the front door for Karen Neal.
Gorsuch also testified that when he saw Darin and Waddell together, no other police or paramedics had arrived at the scene yet. However, Matt Walling, the second officer on the scene, actually parked his vehicle in the alleyway behind the Routier's house; Gorsuch would not have been able to see the car from his vantage point. The ambulance that was directly in front of Walling parked along a curve on Eagle Drive, across from the Routier's house and directly underneath where Gorsuch was standing. He may not have been able to see the ambulance from his bedroom window.
Waddell's Incentive to Lie?
Let's say that Waddell is correct when he says that he saw a man come out of the front door and into the front yard when he first pulled up. That much I believe; I also believe that in the time it took to park the vehicle, step out, draw his gun, and walk from where he parked to where the man had been standing, he lost sight of him. He enters the Routier home and is immediately bombarded by two hysterical parents screaming (DARIN: "Look for a rag!") (DARLIE: "They killed our babies!") and a bloodbath of two butchered little boys. He may have been an experienced police officer, but he was still a parent, and I believe the man just plain froze. I do not fault him for that; he is human. I do not fault him if his memory of the events is not accurate, linear, and chronological; under those chaotic and traumatic circumstances, I would not expect them to be.
What I do fault him for is his perjury and outright character assassination of Darlie during his testimony. He testified that he repeatedly instructed Darlie to put towels on Damon while he was standing right beside her; why do we not hear him say this on the 911 tape? His testimony states "I thought if she was worried about fingerprints on a knife, she could certainly take care of her kids." He's obviously trying to paint her as an uncaring mother, and that comment should have been stricken from the record as speculation.
He also claims that Darlie described to him struggling or fighting with the intruder by the kitchen bar, but that conversation never took place. Every word spoken between Darlie and Waddell is recorded on the 911 call, and she never once says anything to him about a struggle. She mentions a struggle early in the 911 call to the dispatcher, but that is before Waddell arrives. So, why is he testifying under oath about a conversation that never happened? No, there's no recording of anything that was said after the 911 call ended, but according to Waddell's own words, this whole exchange took place during the first few minutes of his arrival, while Darlie was still on the phone. See his direct examination testimony from the August 26, 1996 hearing of a motion to hold Darlie without bail below:
Q. Okay. Did you have a conversation with Mrs. Routier?
A. I talked to her briefly, yes.
Q. Okay. Could you tell us what that conversation was?
A. I believe the first thing I asked her was, who had done this. When I asked her that, she told me that he was still -- somebody was still in the house. And then I directed my attention -- she pointed to the garage, and told me that somebody had ran out into the garage. I stepped over, to look into the garage, just to see if I could see anybody, and told her to apply some pressure to the first child's wounds.
Q. Did she?
Q. What did she do?
A. She sat down on the floor right where she was standing.
Q. Well, after you told her to apply the pressure, and she sat down. What happened next?
A. I walked back over to where she was, and I asked her again who had done it, and if there had been any problems in the house, or if they had had any problems with anybody that she might think would have done it, and she told me no, and she kept telling me, that the guy was still in the house. She told me that she had fought with somebody in the kitchen area, and that after she fought with him he had ran out into the garage and dropped the knife somewhere in the kitchen, between the kitchen and the garage, and that she had went and picked up the knife, and laid it on the counter, which was, she pointed to the counter, and the knife was sitting there. And she told me that she probably should not have done that, because she messed up the fingerprints on the knife. I told her not to worry about that. I said, "Get down and help your little boy there, and I will keep an eye on the garage."
And here's a little snippet from his cross examination during the same hearing:
Q. Um-hum. (Attorney nodding head affirmatively.) Now, you and Officer -- you were there first, Officer Walling arrived in about three or four minutes; is that correct?
A. I guess, I'm not sure on how long it took him.
A. I assumed it was two to three or four minutes, somewhere in that area.
Q. Now, was this during the time that you said that you wanted Mrs. Routier to administer first aid.
Q. Okay. And this is the time when you told her to do that?
Q. Okay. Did you ever tell her to do that after Sergeant Walling arrived?
A. I don't think so.
Q. Okay. Did Sergeant Walling ever tell her to administer first aid?
A. I don't know what he told her.
Q. Well, were you there with him in her presence before the paramedics arrived?
Q. What do you remember Sergeant Walling telling either of the Routiers?
A. I don't know what Sergeant Walling told either one of them.
Q. Okay. Did he tell them anything?
A. He could have.
Q. But you don't remember that part; is that right?
Q. Okay. You remember practically every word that Mrs. Routier said to you, but not much that Sergeant Walling said; is that right?
A. I didn't say that either.
Q. Well --
A. I remember some things that she told me.
Q. Did -- everything she told you, did she tell you that before Sergeant Walling arrived?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Okay. So nothing you have testified to here today, about what she said to you, happened after Sergeant Walling arrived?
A. The best I can remember, no.
*It should be noted here that at the end of the 911 call, somewhere between 2:36 and 2:37 am, the dispatcher tells Darlie there is a police officer at her door and to let him in. The officer, of course, is Matt Walling.*
Now, one might ask why Waddell would lie; what does he gain? Consider this: if Waddell truly did see a man come out of the front door and into the yard when he first arrived and lost sight of that man while getting out of the car and walking up to the house, then it is a reasonable assumption that the person Waddell saw was one of the intruders/killers. Imagine the fallout if the public got wind of the fact a child killer literally slipped right under Waddell's nose. The Rowlett PD was under tremendous pressure to solve this case and solve it quickly. There were millions of dollars worth of investments and development tied up in this desirable little crime-free community. They could not have an unsolved double homicide of two young children and the general public panicking about a lunatic on the loose.
Waddell was transferred out of Rowlett shortly after the murders; he was with the Plano PD when he came back several months later to testify in the trial. Could it be that his superiors strongly encouraged him to tweak his testimony to support the department's need to portray Darlie as the killer? Perhaps he was offered a choice: stick to the script and receive a nice transfer and promotion, or tell the truth and stand in line at the unemployment office. The Guilters would chuckle at the insinuation of a "conspiracy"....but is it really such a far reach? No more so than the idea of Darlie as the killer, in my opinion. I would probably roll my eyes at the conspiracy claim, too...if this happened in any other state.
The First Floor Layout
State's Exhibit 85-J: The Unidentified Fingerprint Left In Wet Blood
If you're familiar with this case, you already know that a fingerprint was discovered at the crime scene. The fingerprint was found on a glass coffee table behind one of the sofas. The print could only have been left while the blood was still wet, meaning that whoever left it was present at the time of the murders. Look at the sketch of the first floor above to see exactly where the print was lifted.
This fingerprint did not match one single person who was known to be in the house that night; it did not belong to any of the Routiers, nor did it match any of the police officers or paramedics (all were printed to rule them out).
Since Damon's fingerprints were not taken prior to his burial, and he had not yet started kindergarten, there were no prints of his on file to compare to the unknown lift. Fingerprint expert Jim Cron stated on the witness stand that "it could be a print from a juvenile." This has been debunked by at least three other experts, and you don't have to be an expert to see that it is way too big for a 5-year-old child's finger.
Of course, the Guilters took that and ran with it. Because it couldn't be matched to anyone else, and with Cron's statement that it "could" be a juvenile print, it suddenly became proof positive to them that Damon must have left that fingerprint. It makes sense, right?
The exhibit below shows a "DNA Map" of blood trails belonging to each of the injured Routiers. Darlie's DNA trail is shown in green, Devon's in yellow, and Damon's in red. Look at all the red spots that indicate where Damon went in the family room. As you can see, the child went nowhere near the coffee table where the print was located.
Conclusion: The fingerprint left in wet blood belonged to one of the killers, not to Damon.
Listen For Yourself
A recording of the call Darlie made to 911 on June 6, 1996
Compare The Calls
Below is a link to another 911 call from a woman who found an abandoned newborn in her outside trash can. There is no doubt whatsoever that this call is genuine. There are 2 phrases the caller uses that stand out to me:
"Why would they do this?"
"Who could do this?"
Sounds rather familiar, doesn't it?
The 911 Call
Another huge issue for me is the 911 call. Many people believe the call itself is a huge indication of Darlie's guilt, but that's strictly a matter of perception and open to interpretation. If you find that call difficult to listen to, that's because it's real. The emotion, the anguish, the terror, the panic...you're getting a glimpse into another person's living hell. Darlie's first words to the dispatcher are: “Somebody came here—they broke in! They just stabbed me and my children!" Guilters like to criticize that her first priority was setting the stage of a break in, when it should have been something more like "My children are dying! I need an ambulance now!" It's tempting to assume that's what we would have said in her position. But, Darlie has just been confronted with the worst possible scene imaginable. She's calling for help, grabbing towels, running back and forth. When the 911 dispatcher picks up, Darlie is just blurting out the words, trying to get it all out. She effectively communicates within the first few seconds that she and the children are injured and they need help.
Listen carefully; what do we really hear on that tape? We hear a desperate mother, begging for help. She asks repeatedly when is the ambulance going to be here. She goes to the door and screams for Karen Neal, the nurse across the street. Is this what you do when you are the one who has stabbed your own children, and one of them is still alive and could possibly identify you as the one who attacked him? Hardly. In fact, why would you call 911 at all unless you were sure they were both dead?
"Darlie was unduly concerned with her fingerprints being on the knife." People say, "What mother, whose children are dead or dying, would even be thinking about fingerprints on a weapon if she's innocent?" This is a total no-brainer. She wasn't thinking about it all; she was answering Waddell's questions about what had occurred. Officer Waddell was not actually dispatched to Eagle Drive, he just happened to be nearby when the call came in over the radio. He never notified the dispatcher that he was on the scene; therefore, the dispatcher had no idea that a police officer was in the house and she did not realize that Darlie was speaking to him. When Darlie mentioned the knife to Waddell, the dispatcher immediately instructed her not to touch it. Darlie replied with the only thing she could possibly have said: that she already touched it and picked it up. Later in the call, she repeats that she touched the knife and says, "We could have got the prints, maybe." She is not concerned about her own prints being on that knife; it's her knife, from her own kitchen. Why wouldn't her prints be on it?
Point of Entry—The Window Screen of the Garage
The Sink That Wasn't Clean
Ah, the infamous "sink clean up." According to the prosecution, Darlie cut her own throat while standing at the sink, and then attempted to clean it up. Now, when I look at the pictures of the sink, I see: the left side, the right side, and the front. None of these areas appear clean. It should be noted that two sponges were collected as evidence from the sink area; there was no blood found on either one. There was blood on the drawers beside the sink and on the cabinet doors underneath, which is consistent with Darlie's assertion that she was pulling out kitchen rags and towels for Darin to use on the boys. There were also cleaning supplies kept under the sink, which were inspected: no blood found on those. So, Darlie attempts to clean up the sink...with what? Water and her hands? Not to mention, it doesn't appear as though she did a very good job, since blood is clearly visible on and around the sink. The presence of blood and water alone does not indicate a clean up job, in my opinion. Why would anyone attempt to clean up blood while continually bleeding from a gaping wound on their throat? Why even cut yourself at the sink at all? If this is where Darlie cut her throat and stabbed herself in the arm, where is all the castoff blood?
About those towels: Darlie and Darin both have been accused of falsifying their testimony that Darlie was at the sink wetting towels to help stop the bleeding. Yet, there were towels collected as evidence, and towels are also visible in the crime scene photos. Darin was too busy trying to resuscitate Devon, so he's not the one who got them out. Where did they come from, the towel fairy?
Now That Is One Clean Sink
Speaking of the Sink...
Staging the Scene
Aside from the supposed clean up at the sink, there were other details that police claimed caused them to suspect the crime scene had been staged. Darlie told police that she heard the sound of breaking glass, and there were glass fragments strewn about the kitchen floor area. Darlie's bloody footprints were photographed underneath some of the glass, causing them to believe she broke the glass after the fact to make it look like there had been a struggle. Here's the problem with that theory: the process of taking photographs and collecting evidence didn't begin until later that morning. With so many people frantically coming in and out of the house, any one of them could have easily kicked that glass from one spot to another without even realizing it. No one was concerned with trying to preserve a crime scene; the priority was to treat the injured.
The location of the vacuum cleaner was another detail that caused investigators to suspect staging. The vacuum was photographed laying on its side, smack dab in the middle of the kitchen. Darlie's blood was found to have dripped onto it, and there were wheel marks where it appeared the vacuum had been rolled through wet blood. This caused the prosecution to claim that Darlie placed it there to further enhance evidence of a struggle.
I do not know who, specifically, moved the vacuum cleaner, but I'm fairly certain I know why: it was in someone's way. Whether they moved it mindfully or subconsciously, I can't say, but I'm 100% confident that it was moved after police arrived and were inside the house. David Waddell and Matt Walling were both asked if they saw the vacuum laying in the middle of the floor. Waddell's response was that he did not; Walling stated that he did remember seeing it, but wasn't sure if it was there when he first came in, or if it was there later when he did a walk-through. Well, I submit to you that if there was a vacuum cleaner knocked over in the middle of the kitchen floor, they would have remembered seeing it at first glance. That's the kind of thing you just don't miss; it's a large, incongruous object that clearly doesn't belong there. I also submit to you that if the vacuum was there and neither of these police officers noticed it, they're not very observant and perhaps should re-think their career choice.
How Can You Miss This?
Bloody Footprints Underneath Broken Glass
Investigators (and Guilters) claim that Darlie's bloody footprints under the broken glass on the floor is further evidence of a staged crime scene. The belief is that Darlie grabbed a wine glass from out of the wine rack and tossed it on the floor to make it look like there was a struggle. It's been said that it was impossible to dislodge the glass by accident, as there was a built-in mechanism in the glass holders to prevent that.
I don't believe the glass broke when it hit the floor; I hold firmly to the belief that one of the intruders rounded a corner and walked right into the wine rack, causing the glass to break on impact while it was still in the holder. In the crime scene photo below, you can clearly see that a shard of glass remains in the holder where the broken glass had been.
Further, if Darlie was the one who broke the glass, she would have to have been actively bleeding for her footprints to be under the glass. There was blood on literally everything the woman touched, but none on the wine rack, or on the actual glass itself.
It's a small thing, but it's just one more thing that was used to make her look guilty, and turned out to be completely untrue.
How did the glass get on top of those bloody footprints? It could have been perfectly innocuous, and a police officer or paramedic may have inadvertently kicked the glass out of the way. Or, perhaps the glass on the footprints truly was staged...after Darlie was taken to the hospital.
A great majority of the Darlie Supporters hold firm to the belief that Darin was behind the crime. I'm sorry to disappoint them, but Darin did not stab his children or his wife. If Darin had any involvement whatsoever, it was tangential and peripheral at best. This author has not excluded the possibility that simply by putting the word out that he was looking to have his house robbed for the purpose of an insurance scam, that perhaps this fell onto the wrong set of ears, and they decided to check out the goods for themselves. The Routier family was scheduled to fly to Pennsylvania on June 14th; perhaps these men got the date confused and believed the house would be empty. While I'm well aware that Darin had "250,000 reasons to kill Darlie," I do not believe he would have ever harmed her or his children, and I especially don't believe he would have chosen to do it a mere five days after he was turned down for a $5,000 loan. That's just plain dumb, and regardless of what anyone thinks of Darin, he is not a stupid man. I've seen many on-camera interviews with Darin over the last 22 years, and I've seen him lie, too; he's not very good at it and he has a giant "tell." Even so, he's not lying when he says he did not stab Darlie or the boys, and he (probably) doesn't know who did.
You can bet your bank account that if Darlie had died that night, Darin would be the one sitting on death row. I can hear Greg Davis now: "No one would have inflicted those kinds of wounds upon themself."
Darin and Darlie divorced in 2011; he has since remarried. That notwithstanding, he has continued to support Darlie's innocence since day one.
Common Questions From Doubters
- Why would an intruder come in, kill two small children, not take anything, and leave the adult alive that could identify him? Because they thought the house was empty, and were taken by surprise. Darin's Jaguar was broken down and was not parked in its usual spot in the driveway. Darlie's Pathfinder was parked in the street; it would have appeared as if no one was home. After killing the kids and attacking Darlie, do you really think they are going to take anything with them that might possibly tie them to this house? As for leaving Darlie alive, the guy that cut her most likely thought he had finished her off. Even if he saw her get off the couch and follow him through the kitchen, he knew it was time to get the hell out of there, the quicker the better. The first guy had already made his exit at that point. This would also explain why he tossed the knife down. That knife had just been used in a double, possibly triple homicide. Again, he wasn't about to flee with anything at all that could link him to this house or this crime.
- Why were Darlie's injuries so different from the injuries on the boys? Because they were more than likely caused by two different people, with two different knives. Also, Darlie was probably fighting and struggling. This would also explain why it appeared as if there were "hesitation" wounds on her neck. If she was struggling and twisting away from the guy wielding the knife and he slashed at her, the cut would not be a perfect slice all the way across.
- Why would an intruder use a knife from the house? Because the first guy brought his own knife, which is what he used to cut the screen (we'll get to the bread knife later). They break into what they think is an empty house and come upon the family room. They don't see the kids sleeping on the floor at first; what they do see is an attractive young blonde asleep on the couch. Well, looky what we have here! At this point the second guy grabs the butcher knife from the kitchen so now he's armed too. Maybe one of them jumped on her while she was on the couch and they began fighting. The struggle wakes Devon, who isn't sure exactly what's going on, but he knows there's strangers in the house. Devon scrambles to his feet and starts for the hallway. All he manages to get out is "Daaaaa----" before a beefy hand is clapped over his mouth and he is flung back to the floor. Devon kicks out at the man and catches him squarely in the balls, and the man begins viciously stabbing Devon in a violent rage.
- Why didn't the dog bark? That dog barked at everyone. I don't believe that the dog heard a damn thing. He was upstairs in the bedroom with Darin, probably sound asleep and snoring away. The whole attack happened in a matter of minutes, and wasn't necessarily as noisy as some may assume. It's entirely possible that the only noises were grunting and some muffled screams. A dog will only bark at an intruder if the dog is aware of his presence.
- Why didn't Darlie ask about her children in the ambulance on the way to the hospital? Because she had already been told that they were dead. Why would she deliberately torture herself by having to hear those soul-crushing words again?
- Darlie claimed she was sleeping downstairs because the baby often woke her by turning over in his crib. How, then, was she able to sleep through the attack?
When you have a baby under a year old that sleeps in the same room with you, you never quite slip into that deep, restful sleep. There's always a part of you that's on alert, waiting for a whimper or cry that signals it's time to warm up a bottle or grab a fresh diaper. On the nights when Darlie would sleep on the couch, that wasn't an issue. Darin was on baby duty, so she was able to allow herself to fall into a heavier sleep with the knowledge that she would not have to get up in the night and tend to Drake. And again, she did not "sleep through" the attack; her mind will not allow her to fully remember the trauma.
- Why did Darlie stay on the phone with 911 instead of comforting Damon? If that had been my child, the paramedics would have had to rip him from my arms. Did you listen to the 911 call? How many times did the dispatcher say something along the lines of, "Ma'am, I need you to stay on the phone with me." "OK, just stay on the line with me." "Ma'am, I need you to talk to me." "Tell me what's going on?" It's not like she was just standing there, chit-chatting with her girlfriends on the phone. Darlie, who doesn't know what to do, is simply doing as she has been instructed. At the very end of the call, the operator tells her to go talk to the police officers. Darlie's plaintive reply is "Now I hang up?" As for comforting Damon: she tells him more than once to "Hang on honey, we're calling honey!" Now, for all you Supermoms out there who claim you would have been holding him in your arms: you need to remember that Damon had been stabbed in the back. Moving him in any way could have resulted in permanent paralysis, had he lived. The main focus was on Devon, who was not breathing. They were desperately trying to get oxygen flowing into him so that he would not be brain damaged if he were to be revived. Damon was breathing on his own; all they could do for him was pray that he could hang on long enough for help to arrive.
- How could an intruder leave the scene without leaving any transfer evidence or bloody footprints? This is the one point that people seem to have the most difficulty with. Although the crime scene photos show that there was blood all over the house, what they don't realize is that the blood was not present at the moment the intruder left. The blood we see is mostly Darlie's, and it wasn't shed until after she stood up and began walking around. The boys were bleeding from their injuries, but the majority of their bleeding was internal and the blood was mainly confined to the areas in which they were attacked. Even the state's expert witnesses conceded that an intruder may not necessarily have tracked blood while making his exit.
The Blood Spattered Night Shirt
The Battle of the Blood Evidence
Tom Bevel was hired by the state as a blood spatter expert. Bevel met with the defense team prior to the trial, including Lloyd Harrell, who was the investigator for the defense. During this meeting, Bevel stated unequivocally that the blood mixture on the back of the shirt was the result of one single occurrence of spatter. In other words, Bevel was saying that both victims were injured and actively bleeding when the drops were deposited, and their mixed blood landed on the back of the shirt.
However, when it came time for Bevel to testify, his "expert" opinion was drastically different from what he had said to the defense previously. On the stand, Bevel testified that the mixture was actually the result of two separate occurrences, Darlie's blood having landed on the shirt first and then Damon's blood landing on the exact same spot of the shirt on top of Darlie's (or vice versa).
The defense wanted to put Mr. Harrell on the stand to bring this discrepancy to the attention of the jury. However, since Harrell was an integral part of the defense team and had been sitting in the court room throughout the trial, any testimony from him fell under the "Rule of Evidence," meaning that because he was able to hear what other witnesses had said, he was not permitted to take the stand.
Legally, this fell under the "Hearsay Exception" and Harrell should have been able to take the stand, but Judge Tolle overrode this. Had Bevel been on the other side of the case, I firmly believe Tolle would have ruled differently.
More than one Guilter has claimed that "Lloyd Harrell's own ineptitude disqualified him from testifying," but that is simply another lie that they tell. Mr. Harrell was never on any witness list and did not plan on testifying at all. He would have had no way of knowing that Bevel would directly contradict what he had told the defense team. Was he supposed to keep quiet about that?
Trials and Errors
One thing The Guilters love to say is, "Read the transcripts. Everything that points to Darlie's guilt, is in the transcripts." My response to that is: "Only if you completely ignore everything presented by the defense...which only a fool would do." As anyone who is familiar with this case already knows, the original transcripts contained over 33,000 errors. Some of these errors were minor; many were not. Among the not-so-minor errors: answers of "yes" were recorded as "no" and vice versa; during deliberations, the jury had a question with regard to whether or not Darin testified that he had locked the door connecting the utility room to the garage; the answer they received was that he did. This was incorrect; Darin testified that he locked the front door before going upstairs to bed, but he wasn't sure about the utility room door.
The Court Reporter, Sandra Halsey, pled the 5th Amendment when questioned in court regarding her substandard work. At first she insisted there were no audio tapes; later she recanted and admitted that there were audio tapes, locked in a storage unit. When ordered to produce those tapes and turn them in, Sandra complied, but there were still a couple of tapes missing. The transcripts had to be recreated from the original erroneous transcript and an incomplete set of audio tapes...by people who were not even in the courtroom during the original trial. Predictably, Halsey lost her license over this whole debacle. So, please forgive me for not taking those transcripts as the holy grail of this case. I see nothing in them that definitively points to Darlie's guilt, but I do see numerous red flags with regard to how the case was handled by both the prosecution and the defense. I see a judge with a clear bias in favor of the prosecution that was blatantly trying to rush through the trial, never mind that someone's life was hanging in the balance. The transcripts give the reader a good idea of what went on in the courtroom, but even if they were perfectly transcribed, there are so many nuances that could never be gleaned from them. There is no tone, no inflection, no facial expressions or body language. We also have to wonder what was stricken from the actual record, but still made it to the ears of the jury.
Did Darlie get a fair trial? No, she most certainly didn't. None of her three trials were fair. She was first tried in the media, then she was tried in the court of public opinion, and finally, she was tried in a courtroom. When it comes to courtroom trials, it's not about the truth, or even what you can prove. No, it's all about how it looks. The prosecution team was very good at setting the stage and creating the character of "Darlie the Killer." The problem with the character they created, however, is that she never existed, but the jury and the general public fell for it anyway.
Much has been made of a diary entry in Darlie's journal dated May 3, 1996, a little over a month before the murders. The entry reads, "Dear Devon, Damon, and Drake, I hope that one day you will forgive me for what I am about to do. My life has been such a hard fight for a long time, and I just cannot find the strength to keep fighting anymore. I love you three more than anything else in this world…I don’t want you to see a miserable person every time you look at me. Your dad loves you all very much and I know in my heart he will take care of my babies. Please do not hate me or think in any way that this is your fault. It’s just that I…”
This diary entry has been referred to as a "suicide note" and some people actually see it as a confession. In my opinion, it is neither. There is nothing to indicate she had any thoughts about hurting the children; she was asking their forgiveness for an act she was contemplating while reassuring them of her love for them. According to Darlie, she had not had her period since giving birth to Drake and was feeling particularly low on that day. She had some over the counter sleeping pills on hand but, as she was writing the note, she abandoned the idea and did the healthiest thing possible: she reached out for help. She called Darin at work, who could tell by her voice that something was wrong and she needed him. He came right home and they had a good, long talk resulting in Darlie feeling much more positive. Days later, Darlie began menstruating again, and the relief washed over her.
The prosecution took this diary entry and ran with it. The unfinished entry suddenly became a "suicide note" and was supposed to be proof of Darlie's mental state. Almost all of her other entries were upbeat and positive, with Darlie remarking on how blessed she was, but the prosecution was not interested in those entries.
Sexism, Racism, and Materialism
The prosecution successfully appealed to the conservative jurors' subconscious prejudices by usage of the above-mentioned emotional trifecta. The message was clear: we don't like Darlie Routier, and you shouldn't, either. What kind of mother has bleached blonde hair and $5,000 breast implants? What kind of mother wears such revealing clothing, all that flashy jewelry, and a ring on each finger? In all fairness, the birth of three children along with nursing did take it's toll on Darlie's breasts, and after she had Damon, the muscle tone was gone, causing unsightly sagging. The implants were a gift from Darin and, true to the style of a Texan male, bigger was better. It was the same with the blonde hair and Daisy Duke outfits and flashy jewelry. Darin was proud of his attractive young wife, and he succeeded in turning her into his version of the perfect woman. They were young—Darin was 28 and Darlie was 26—and they were enjoying the money they were making. They were doing what every other young married couple does: raising a family and living the American dream.
Devon and Damon's favorite song was "Gangsta's Paradise," a 1995 hip hop smash hit by rapper Coolio. In honor of the boys, the family chose this as one of the songs to be played at their funeral. Greg Davis was almost theatrically aghast by this choice of music and wasted no time including the all-white jury in his outrage. Inappropriate, he thundered. A song about violence and death at the funeral of two slain little boys? What's wrong with this woman?
In truth, Darlie did not pick the music and did not know the song would be played, but the jury did not hear this. What they heard loud and clear was the subtext of Davis's remarks: a rap song? Sung by a black man? For the love of God, think of the children! Incidentally, the song begins with a bible verse, does not contain one single obscenity, and preaches a strong anti-gang and violence message. It was also so popular that if you listened to any pop stations at all, you were bound to hear it no less than twelve times per day. When it came time for this family to lay those boys to rest, it was all about honoring them, their lives, and the things that made them happy. If that meant "Gangsta's Paradise" and silly string, so be it. Davis can disapprove all he wants. So can the general public. Devon and Damon were not Davis's children or anyone else's.
James Cron, a retired "crime scene analyst," arrives at the Routier home around 6:00 am. Within 20 minutes, he decides that the crime scene was staged and the perpetrator was someone in the house. Cron did not see Darlie's injuries. He did not have a conversation with her; she was already at the hospital when he got to the house. He knew only what the police had told him, and God only knows how they spun it for him. The bloody sock in the alleyway had not even been discovered at this point. Cron certainly had an impressive resume and over 30 years of experience, but sometimes, this can work against a person. It can make them too confident and arrogant in their opinion. Captain Edward J. Smith had a good 40 years of experience on the sea, but he still sank to the bottom of the Atlantic with the Titanic in 1912. Even the best of the best make mistakes, sometimes grievous mistakes.
Charles Linch, a trace evidence analyst, testified that the bread knife from the kitchen was used to cut the screen. He stated that a fiber he analyzed from the grooves of the knife was consistent with rubber and fiberglass fibers from the cut screen in the garage. These fibers are also consistent with the brushes used for fingerprint dusting, and the knives were dusted for prints immediately after the screen, making a great case for cross-contamination. Last but not least, the amount of fiber recovered from the knife was so minuscule that when Linch was finished with his analysis, there was nothing left for the defense to perform their own analysis! If that knife had been used to cause that large slice in the screen, there would have been a lot more fibers adhering to it. Linch was instructed by the prosecution team to avoid recording his findings in a written report. Interesting side note: before testifying in the Routier trial, Charles Linch had recently been hospitalized for alcoholism and depression.
Tom Bevel, the state's blood spatter "expert," has come under fire in recent years and his inaccurate testimonies have been linked to two exonerations and at least three other wrongful convictions...that I know of. His little demonstration showing how castoff blood from the knife supposedly dropped onto Darlie's night shirt by stabbing motions was completely over-exaggerated. I could see that he was actively trying to get those drops on the back of the shirt, and he had to work pretty hard to accomplish it. He, too, was instructed by the prosecution to avoid recording his findings in a written report.
Alan Brantley, a Special Agent with the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, testified that the force of the wounds on the children indicated extreme rage. He stated that, "Whoever killed those boys knew them, and knew them well." Really, Alan? Since when does rage have to be personal? What about road rage incidents? Ted Bundy exhibited an intense amount of rage when he broke into that sorority house and brutally bashed and strangled those women, but he didn't know a single one of them personally. Rage is rage; sometimes it's personal, and sometimes it's not. Again, Alan Brantley was instructed by the prosecution to not put his professional opinion in writing.
Next up is an expert who was never called to testify: Dr. Kenneth Dekleva, the state's own Forensic Psychiatrist. Dekleva examined Darlie and came to the conclusion that she was not a sociopath; nor did she, in his opinion, present a future danger to society, one of the main criteria used to determine eligibility for the death penalty. He never submitted a report, because—you guessed it—he was instructed not to.
When it comes to this case, I have never been confident with either the crime scene preservation or the collection of the evidence. There were at least a dozen people coming in and out of that house in the early morning hours. Evidence was placed into paper grocery bags and cross-contaminated. Police officers and experts had no notes for the defense to review. One has to wonder how much evidence was missed, and not collected for testing. One also must wonder if there was actual evidence of an intruder, did it conveniently disappear?
During the trial, the character assassination of Darlie Routier continued when several of the nurses who treated her in the hospital were called to testify. To hear them tell it, Darlie was unemotional with a flat, disinterested affect. They testified that she did not appear to be grieving appropriately. Two of them that testified one after the other used the same peculiar word to describe her: whiny.
Their notes, however, told a different story. The notes in Darlie's chart indicated that she was tearful, emotional, and experienced long periods of crying. So why the discrepancies?
No, I don't feel as if the nurses were part of a conspiracy. The prosecution held a mock trial prior to the nurses testifying, a bit of a dress rehearsal, you might say. Each witness was able to hear what the others would be saying on the stand. That may have been part of the problem, but the biggest nail in the coffin was a downright dirty trick pulled by the prosecution. They had the nurses pass around various photos of Darlie's injuries and the crime scene, but they also slipped Devon's and Damon's autopsy photos in with them. There was no valid reason for this; these nurses did not attend to Damon or Devon and would not be testifying about their injuries or autopsies. The photos were shown for the sole purpose of eviscerating an emotional response. Seeing those bloody, butchered children invoked anger in the nurses, most of whom were women. It made them want someone to be punished and added a degree of hostility toward Darlie in their testimony.
It should be noted that not every nurse who treated Darlie was called to testify. In fact, a trauma nurse named Teresa Powers had provided lead detective Jimmy Patterson with an affidavit. When Darlie's court-appointed attorneys referenced this affidavit in a pretrial hearing, Greg Davis immediately objected on the grounds of hearsay and was (as usual) sustained by Judge Mark Tolle. The affidavit is only mentioned again once more, very briefly, and its contents have never been revealed. Who is Teresa Powers, and what is in that affidavit that Davis so desperately wanted to keep out?
I'll Take the 5th for 500, Alex
Pleading the 5th Amendment seemed to be a recurring theme in this trial. Court Reporter Sandra Halsey pled the 5th when questioned about the errors in the trial transcripts and the missing audio tapes. Lead detectives Jimmy Patterson and Chris Frosch would also plead the 5th when called to the witness stand. The detectives were not called by the state to testify; it was the defense that put them on the stand. The detectives had crossed into a bit of a legal gray area by setting up a hidden microphone at the cemetery where funeral services for the children were to be held. They did this in the hopes that they would catch an earth-shattering graveside confession.
In a move that would turn out to be an epic fail, defense attorney Doug Mulder used this as an excuse to blast the detectives and insinuate to the jury that they had broken the law with their graveyard surveillance. This resulted in both men invoking their 5th amendment right against self incrimination; it also effectively robbed Darlie of her own 6th amendment right to cross examine her accuser, since Patterson was the one who drafted her arrest warrant and filed charges of capital murder.
Instead of focusing on the wiretapping, Mulder could have asked Patterson the million dollar question:
"Detective Patterson, upon reviewing the footage of this surreptitious recording, at what point did you hear Darlie Routier confess to murdering her sons?"
Patterson would have been forced to admit in open court that no such confession had been made, at which point Mulder should have smiled like a shark, said "Thank you, no further questions" and sat down like the boss he was supposed to be.
Darlie On The Witness Stand
When Darlie took the stand in her own defense, it was a disaster. She never should have testified. I think she felt that the jury needed to hear her say she was innocent, in her own words. She was nervous, intimidated, and probably terrified, but she came off as cold and arrogant. The ultra-conservative jury did not see her as someone they could identify with.
Under Toby Shook's brutal cross examination, Darlie became non-responsive, argumentative, and even downright angry. She had written letters to friends and family members while in jail, and these letters were read by jail officials, copied, and sent to the prosecution. In several of these letters, Darlie stated that she knew who the killer was. She said she saw him, and that once they had more information on him, she was sure she'd be found innocent. She actually named a couple of different suspects in her letters. When Shook confronted her with these letters, she became angry and demanded to know where he had gotten them. When he told her, she openly challenged him and asked if that was illegal. The spectators got a good chuckle at her expense when Shook replied scathingly that it was not. Darlie tried to explain herself, but ended up dissolving into tears. Guilters claim that those tears were the result of her being "caught in her own lies."
I can understand her anger and frustration at yet another violation of privacy. First he grills her about her diary entry, and then he confronts her with personal letters that were not meant to be read by anyone other than the recipient. She must have felt deeply violated; this is tantamount to someone going through your laundry hamper and parading your dirty undies for strangers to see. There were no lies in those letters, only misinformation. At the time, Darlie had two different private investigators working on the case and feeding her (sometimes conflicting) information. She grasped onto what they told her like a lifeline, desperate to believe that the real killer would be found. She had nothing to do while in jail but rack her brain and agonize over the fact that her children's killer was walking around free while she sat in jail, on trial for her very life.
Here's a little piece of that cross examination that didn't receive nearly as much press time as the rest:
BY MR. TOBY L. SHOOK:
Q. Do you remember talking to Detective Waddell there when he came into your house?
A. Very briefly.
Q. Okay. Did you tell Detective Waddell that you had been fighting with the man there at the island area?
A. No, sir, it would have been on the call as well, and it's not on there.
Q. Okay. You never told him that any time he was in your house?
A. No, sir, I didn't.
Q. Okay. You remember the paramedic, the one with the nickname Toad?
A. I only remember them really by their faces.
Q. He was the one that actually put the bandage on you and walked you out?
A. I don't remember.
Shook sure didn't seem to want to linger on the subject of Waddell and what was said to him, did he?
Guilters gleefully point out that Darlie used the phrase "I don't know" or "I don't remember" 72 times during her cross examination. However, Officer David Mayne, who was responsible for the collection of evidence at the crime scene, used the phrase "I'm not for sure" 48 times during his cross exam, and "I don't recall" exactly 25 times, for a whopping total of 73 times. Mayne is the winner, and he was not the victim of a traumatic attack that resulted in the murder of his children. This is the same officer, by the way, who neglected to collect several bloody towels as evidence, but for some reason retrieved as evidence paperwork on a funeral and headstone for a cat that had died the previous summer.
The timeline was presented by the prosecution and was based on the length of the 911 call, and the testimony of Dr. Janis Townsend-Parchman, the doctor who performed the autopsy on Damon. Parchman testified that Damon could have lived, at most, 8 or 9 minutes after he was first stabbed. The prosecution asserted that Darlie had enough time to commit the murders, run 75 yards down the alley to deposit the sock daubed with Devon's and Damon's blood, run back to the house, slash her throat, inflict her other injuries, and stage the scene.
Let's think about this claim for a minute. Darlie's call to 911 came in at 2:31 and lasted 5 minutes and 44 seconds. The sock had to have been placed in the alleyway after the children were stabbed, since spots of blood on the sock were sourced to both of the boys. Paramedics arrived at the scene at about 2:40, and paramedic Jack Kolbye witnessed Damon gasp his last breath immediately after he began attending to him. This means that Damon had to have been stabbed within about a minute before the 911 call began. Even if you add a couple of minutes to Parchman's opinion that he only lived 8 or 9 minutes, that still does not give Darlie enough time to accomplish everything the prosecution claims she did. There are those that steadfastly claim she could have feasibly done it, but it's just too much of a reach, as far as I'm concerned.
The Bloody Sock
That Sock, Though...
The Guilters will tell you that there isn't any one thing that convinces them of Darlie's guilt; they say it's the "whole picture." I can understand that, except that I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum. If I had to narrow it down to any one thing, though, it would have to be that sock that was found in an alleyway a good 75 yards from the house. Everyone seems to have a theory as to how it got there. The sock had spots of Devon's and Damon's blood on it, but none of Darlie's blood. There is no logic to support the theory of her planting that sock, even if she is the killer. If you're going to plant evidence to throw police off your trail, why not leave it in the yard or somewhere closer to the house where it is more likely to be found? There was no guarantee that the police would find it, or realize that it was linked to the murders. And why did neither Darlie nor Darin mention it at all, if it was part of the "staging?" Guilters will say that Darlie attacked the boys, and then ran down the alleyway to plant the sock before running back to the house, seeing Damon was still alive and moving around, and then stabbing him again before inflicting her own injuries. But Bill Gorsuch across the street worked nights, as I've already mentioned. Darlie would have known that he gets home around 2 in the morning, and if she did plant the sock, it had to be before the 911 call came in at 2:31. What if Gorsuch was still awake and happened to see her running outside to plant this sock? Would she really risk that?
More Than Reasonable Doubt
On the night of the murders, around 1:30 am, Mary Angelia Rickels and her 15-year-old daughter were up late watching a horror film. Rickels, a 34-year-old Registered Nurse who lived about a half a mile from the Routiers, testified that she heard the sounds of someone trying to get in the front door. Since her husband worked nights and often came home during his break to check on her, she was not unduly concerned even when the "jiggling" at the door continued. Rickels explained that the lock was difficult to maneuver and would sometimes take several tries before opening.
After a couple of minutes, however, there came a loud bang and what sounded like splintering wood. Rickels went to the door and looked out the peephole. There were two strange men standing on her front porch. She turned on the porch light and the men ran off. Rickels was shaken, but not alarmed enough to summon police. About 15-20 minutes later, Rickels heard noises again, this time coming from her daughter's empty first floor bedroom. Rickels peered out the blinds and saw that the men had returned and were trying to get in the window. This time, one of them had what appeared to be a screwdriver or knife. Rickels turned on the bedroom light and once again, the men ran off. They did not return. Still, Rickels did not call 911.
When questioned on the witness stand, Rickels stated, "Well, it was over at that point, the men were already gone. I just figured, you know, what can the police do now?" Rickels would not actually contact police with this information until June 11th, five days after the murders. Guilters have been quick to dismiss Rickels as a "lying lunatic" or a "brain damaged stroke victim on a cocktail of drugs." In reality, Rickels had not been in good health at the time. She had suffered a stroke during childbirth the previous fall, she had cardiac issues and was treated for three minor heart attacks during the summer of 1996; plus, she had recently lost her brother and had been prescribed the anti-depressant Trazadone. She has also been widely criticized for not calling the police that night. You're home alone with your teenage daughter, two men try to break in once, come back again with a weapon and break in a different way...and you don't call the police?
I understand the Guilters need to dismiss Rickels as a liar or as mentally unstable. If her account is true, that puts two armed bad guys in the area not half an hour before the attacks, which lends credence to the intruder theory. But tell me, what does Rickels have to gain from falsifying information to police or perjuring herself on the witness stand? It wasn't to help Darlie; Rickels contacted the police on June 11th and Darlie was not arrested until the 18th. If she was just seeking attention, it would make more sense to call the police the very next day upon hearing about the murders. The stroke, the medication, the horror movie: none of this means that two men with a knife didn't try to break into her house that night.
The Affidavit of Darlene Potter
As if Rickels testimony wasn't enough for reasonable doubt, we also have the affidavit filed by Darlene Potter. In an affidavit dated July 10, 2002, Potter described the following incident:
This is good for Darlie in the sense that it adds yet another element of doubt regarding her story of an intruder. However, if there is one thing I would personally love to ask Darlene Potter, it would be this: How is it that, more than 6 years later, she can be absolutely sure that the date she saw these men was indeed June 6, 1996? There could be a perfectly logical explanation. Perhaps this sighting coincided with a major life event, such as a wedding, birth of a grandchild, or death in the family, and therefore the date stuck out in her mind. Unfortunately, there is very little information available regarding Potter's affidavit and the circumstances leading up to her filing it. Even so, the sighting of a man in his bare feet does make one wonder what may have happened to his socks...
Suspension of Disbelief
I just can't buy the idea that Darlie was the one who murdered her kids. I know mothers kill their children; the idea is not inconceivable to me. I can easily envision Susan Smith releasing the parking brake of her Mazda and sending her boys off to their watery grave. I have no doubt that Diane Downs shot her children and then shot herself in the arm. I can picture Marybeth Tinning holding a pillow over her infant's faces...again and again and again. I live in the real world and I know all too well that these things happen; I just don't believe that it happened in the case of Darlie Routier. To believe she is the killer, I would have to believe in one of two scenarios:
1) Darlie suddenly and inexplicably snaps in the middle of the night. She grabs a butcher knife and just starts stabbing her kids in a rage. Apparently, while she is attacking the first child, the other one is just sleeping through it peacefully, or is quietly and patiently waiting for his turn. Then she stabs the other child. Immediately, she "snaps back," comes to her senses and has the presence of mind to do all this staging. She cuts the screen with the bread knife, runs down the alleyway to plant the sock, and runs back to the house. She is somehow sophisticated enough to think of stabbing herself in her dominant arm, and slits her own throat, with her non-dominant hand, while standing in front of the sink. Then she sees Damon is still moving, so she stabs him a couple more times for good measure, knocks over the vacuum, breaks a glass, and then screams for Darin while running to call 911. I'm sorry, but it just doesn't wash.
2) The murders were premeditated, meaning I have to believe that Darlie chose to do this in the middle of the night, with Darin at home and just upstairs. Suppose he had trouble sleeping and came down the stairs for a glass of water while she was doing all this? What if the baby woke up and Darin had to come down and warm up a bottle? She can't stab two people at the same time; what if one of the boys had run out of the room and made it upstairs? There's just too many variables. Darlie was home alone with the kids every day. If she was really this calculating, cold-blooded murderer, she had plenty of better opportunities to pull this off. Yet I am supposed to believe that this so-called materialistic woman, who took pride in her home and her belongings and was by all accounts a fastidious housekeeper, willingly chose to spill blood all over that beautiful white carpet? Nope, try again.
So, Who Did It?
Even back in '96 and '97, I personally was never convinced of Darlie's guilt. Over the years, her story would pop up on various television shows, or was featured on the news whenever a new development came up. I always had a remote interest in the case and followed the stories for years. My gut instinct was always that she was innocent and had been railroaded, which I thought was a crying shame, but then I would go about my business and forget about her for a while, until my attention would be drawn to it again for whatever reason.
That changed when I read "Dateline Purgatory: Examining the Case That Sentenced Darlie Routier To Death" by Kathy Cruz. There is a chapter in that book that struck me like lightning, and I couldn't get it out of my mind. In the book, Cruz describes how Darlie received a letter in 1998 from an inmate at another facility. The inmate is identified only as "Karl," but the contents of the letter were a bombshell.
In the letter, Karl, who was then incarcerated at The Potter County Jail, described an argument he had heard between two other inmates in late fall of 1996 as they were coming in from the rec yard. The two men were arguing heatedly about a crime in which they had both been involved, and in which young children were stabbed with knives, and Karl heard one of them mention the name "Darla." At the time, Karl had been in jail for months and knew nothing of the Rowlett murders. Karl did not like what he was hearing about hurting little children and he confronted one of the men, a stocky, blonde-haired cowboy originally from Oklahoma, who went by the street name "Arkansas." According to Karl, Arkansas told him that he had no choice but to kill the kid since he had seen his face and had tried to run out of the room toward the hallway. Arkansas was known for his quick violent temper and substance abuse issues. He had entered the Potter County Jail in July of 1996, after carjacking a man at knife-point. Arkansas had also requested to see a psychiatrist while in jail, as he claimed he was suffering from nightmares and flashbacks related to one of his past crimes. He attempted to hang himself in his cell, but was not successful. He was treated, evaluated, and it was determined that he was not a serious suicide risk. He was returned to the Potter County Jail. On December 28, 1996, Arkansas was found hanging in his cell once again—this time with his hands tied securely in front of him with a bed sheet. Although the Medical Examiner found this to be highly suspicious, in the end, his death was classified as a suicide.
In early 1998, Karl was in jail reading The New Yorker magazine when he came upon an article about the impending execution of Karla Faye Tucker. Darlie's story was also featured. When Karl learned her name, and the fact that her children had been stabbed to death in June of 1996, he put two and two together. This had to be the murder that Arkansas was talking about that fall day back in '96! Karl sat down and promptly wrote to Darlie, sharing this information with her. He also wrote to Houston attorney and former investigative reporter Quinncy McNeal, who was also named in the article, relating the same story. Quinncy was skeptical, to say the least. As a rule, most claims made by inmates are taken well-salted. Still, Karl had nothing to gain by telling this story. Quinncy was intrigued enough to start doing some digging. He began submitting open records requests of all inmates that were at Potter County Jail in the fall of 1996. Every time he would receive a mugshot, he would send it to Karl, who did not know Arkansas's real name and was not familiar with the man he had been arguing with. Karl was never able to pick out the other man, but sent a note back to Quinncy with one of the mugshots: "This is Arkansas."
Through open records, Quinncy was able to obtain police reports and information on Arkansas's known associates. Two of these associates were a married couple identified in the book as "Dwayne" and "Karen." Quinncy was able to meet with Karen while she was incarcerated at the Lubbock County Jail. According to Karen, in early June of 1996, Arkansas, Dwayne, and a third man "got into a fight about drugs" and took a road trip headed for Dallas in a stolen white truck. From what Karen remembers hearing from Dwayne upon their return, the men had broken into a house that was supposed to be empty and "f***ed some people up."
Karen said, "They said they broke into a house and it all went bad. There were young children, in the room, and a fight broke out. The kids woke up, and all hell broke loose."
My Challenge To The Guilters
So, there you have it; all of the reasons why I do not believe Darlie Lynn Routier is guilty of murdering her children. You can say whatever you want about Mary Rickels and her story of the two men that tried to break in her house, but I have seen Arkansas's mugshot, and one of the men she described fits him to a T. The description of the other man very closely fits Dwayne. I'd also like to add that I have been to this very neighborhood, and it is a six minute walk from Rickels' home at 8910 Miami Drive to 5801 Eagle Drive. Combine these details with the affidavit filed by Darlene Potter, and the undeniable fact is that it's highly possible, in fact probable, that Arkansas and Dwayne are the true killers of Damon and Devon Routier.
I know that someone will likely make the argument that even if Arkansas and Dwayne did break into a house and stab young children in the Dallas area in June of 1996, who's to say that there wasn't a similar crime that was unrelated? Well, if there was, I can't find a record of it. Anywhere. I've looked, believe me. So here's my challenge to you: find me proof of such a crime. Find a record of young children that were stabbed during a home invasion that took place within a 50 mile radius of Dallas during that time frame, and then maybe I'll budge on my stance that Darlie is innocent. Until that happens, I steadfastly maintain my position that an innocent woman has been sitting on death row for over two decades, while Dwayne, a recent parolee, is sitting back laughing at how he got away with murder, and at everyone who believes in Darlie's guilt.
- "Dateline Purgatory: Examining the Case That Sentenced Darlie Routier To Death" by Kathy Cruz
- "Hush Little Babies" by Don Davis
- "A Killer in My House" by David Kennedy
- ABC Docu-series "The Last Defense" episodes 1-4
- Trial transcripts
- Crime scene photos
Questions & Answers
What information does AFIS hold?
AFIS is the automated fingerprint identification system that was implemented in 1999. When an arrest is made for a felony charge, the suspects are automatically fingerprinted and the prints are uploaded into the system. This enables LE to compare unknown prints against known felons.
State's exhibit 85-J, the unidentified fingerprint found in blood at the crime scene, was recently uploaded into the system after years of fighting. There was no exact match to any prints that are in the system...including Darlie Routier's.Helpful 9
If the police officer committed perjury like you say, why hasn't the conviction been overturned?
According to my research, witness perjury alone would not be enough to overturn the conviction. It may go a long way with regard to getting her a new trial, but even that is not a given. It would have to be proven that: the witness knowingly gave false testimony; this testimony had a direct influence on the court decisions and/or verdict; and that the prosecution was aware of the false nature of the testimony--which even I have to concede that they may not have been.
Darlie's appellate team may very well be working on these arguments right now; we'll just have to stay tuned.Helpful 7
Tell me more about how the DNA and AFIS databases differ, what are we looking for?
AFIS works like this: a latent print that cannot be defined as to which hand or finger (left or right) comes into the fingerprint unit. The examiner must then evaluate whether or not the print meets the standards to scan and upload it; if enhancement is required, the examiner must do that first. The print is then scanned and entered into the system. The software will then compare that print to all other prints stored in the database. The software usually suggests multiple possible matches and sorts them in order of most likely to least likely. Still, the machine can't do it all. The results from the system are then evaluated by the examiner, requiring a combination of experience, training, and visual inspection. The examiner makes the final judgment as to whether a match has been found.
CODIS, or Combined DNA Index System, is a little more complex. When it comes to criminal investigations, there are three main indexes utilized by law enforcement: offender profiles of those convicted of crimes; arrestee profiles of suspects, and forensic profiles collected from crime scenes. The purpose of this database is to link crimes to other crimes and offenders. There are other indexes as well, such as missing persons and unidentified human remains. CODIS differs from AFIS with regard to privacy: there are no personal identifiers, no names attached to these profiles. If the software finds a match, the uploading agency is notified and is then tasked with the dissemination of personal information.
It is estimated that there are over 13 million offender profiles, more than 3 million arrestee profiles, and 840,000 forensic profiles in the system as of 2018.Helpful 6
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