By Emily Duren
You’ve probably never heard of Darlie Routier. I hadn’t, and neither had most of Rowlett, Texas. Until June 6, 1996, when she stabbed her two oldest sons to death as they slept… or had she? Routier has recently come back into the somewhat public eye since her story was featured on an episode of Death Row Stories, there was a new book published about her, and, arguably most importantly, she won new DNA testing, and seeks to prove that she isn’t a killer.
That’s not where this story starts, though. Darlie and Darin Routier were high school sweethearts, married when they were 18 and 20, respectively. When Darin’s computer company hit it big, he and his wife moved to a big, brick house in Rowlett, a well-to-do suburb of Dallas. Within eight years, the couple had three sons: Damon, 5, Devon, 6, and Drake, 7 months.
But then, in the early morning hours of June 6, 1996, a frantic 911 call was made from their house on Eagle Drive. It was the young mother screaming that her sons had been stabbed. They were dying, she said. They were dead, she said. By the time paramedics arrived, one of them, 6-year-old Devon, was dead. Shortly after, while paramedics worked on him, 5-year-old Damon died.
What had happened? That was the question on the minds of everyone from the police, to Darlie’s husband, Darin, who had been sleeping upstairs in the master bedroom with baby Drake. As Darlie would tell it: she and the boys were downstairs in the family room watching a movie and had fallen asleep. An intruder came in, and she was awoken to the sounds of her sons’ screaming. She was also stabbed by the perpetrator, but was able to chase him through the kitchen and into the laundry room before he got away. It certainly sounds like something that could happen. But 12 days later, she was arrested for capital murder. So, is Darlie Routier a loving young mother in an unimaginable situation, exacerbated by the fact that evidence was mishandled and protocols were botched? Or is she a cold-blooded killer?
I want to start by saying that there were so many injustices in this case, and that, no matter the outcome, Routier deserves a new trial, for three primary reasons:
- Errors in trial documents: It took the court reporter over a year to transcribe the 15,000+ page trial, and it had missing information, not to mention 30,000 errors. Thirty THOUSAND.
- The police never looked into other suspects: This was only the second homicide in Rowlett, Texas… ever, and they were in way over their heads. There was evidence that pointed to someone else being in the house, or that her husband may have perpetrated the murders, but police never looked into it.
- Evidence was mishandled at the crime scene. See below.
Evidence Against Darlie:
Her explanation doesn’t make sense: Darlie said that she had been sleeping downstairs on the couch for the last several days, and the reason was because baby Drake’s cries woke her up at night. Yet, her two sons are stabbed to death mere feet from where she sleeps and she hears absolutely nothing? Two young children with multiple, penetrating stab wounds of several inches aren’t going to lay silently.
Nothing valuable was taken from the home: If there was an intruder, the most likely explanation is that this was supposed to be a robbery. However, some of Darlie’s gold jewelry had been sitting on the kitchen counter and was untouched. Otherwise, who breaks into a home and starts stabbing two children?
The glass on the bloody footprints: This is a doozie. Darlie stated that when she was chasing the intruder, a wine glass got knocked over, she stepped on it, her feet got cut, and that’s why her bloody footprints are on the kitchen floor. Forensic science tells us that if this happened the way she says, the broken glass would have been underneath Darlie’s bloody footprints. However, the broken glass was on top.*
The window screen was cut with a knife from the Routier home: The supposed intruder entered through a window that went into the garage. When the knives from the Routier kitchen were tested for fibers matching the window screen, one of them matched. An intruder is not going to cut a window screen with a knife from the home he or she is breaking into. But, the screen was cut from the outside. Which leaves two plausible explanations: Darlie cut the screen to throw police off, or Darin cut it to make it easier for someone to get in.
Evidence For Darlie:
*Things at the crime scene were moved around: There is hard evidence, in the crime scene photos themselves, that things were moved around—in photograph A, item one might be on the floor, but in photograph B, it might be on the counter—by either the paramedics, crime scene technicians, or detectives. Someone other than Darlie. It was also theorized that the evidence was contaminated by an investigator stepping in blood and tracking it into the garage in the form of a footprint, but the blood was never tested.
Her diary entry: Darlie made an entry in her diary, 33 days before the murders that implied she was going to kill herself: “Devon, Damon and Drake, I hope 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 can’t find the strength to keep fighting anymore. I love you three more than anything else in this world and I want all three of you to be healthy and happy and I don’t want you to see a miserable person every time you look at me…” This was one of the pieces of evidence that helped convict Routier, because it speaks to her mental state at the time. However, I have two problems with this. The first is that a person’s mental state can drastically change in three days, let alone more than a month. Just because she was suicidal on May 3rd, that doesn’t mean that she was homicidal on June 6th, we’re not even dealing with the same emotion. The second problem I have is that with how highly she speaks of her sons and how much she loves them, it seems highly unlikely that she would murder them. And why leave Drake? If you’re a cold-blooded killer who concocted this movie-watching scenario so you could sneak up on your children and murder them, why leave one safely upstairs?
The silly string video: Devon’s seventh birthday would have been one week after his death. On that day, Darlie and her family held a memorial at his gravesite. What was shown to the jury is a smaller portion of the video where Darlie and her family are seen celebrating Devon’s life, yelling “Happy birthday!” and spraying silly string, which her sister brought as a surprise, not at Routier’s request. This, unbelievably, was one of the biggest determiners in Routier’s conviction, as it portrayed her as cold and uncaring. What the jury never saw, though, was hours of footage that the police secretly filmed earlier that same day, also at the gravesite—the legality of which has been brought into question—where Routier and her family can be seen crying and praying with a preacher.
Darlie’s slash wounds: Darlie had a few superficial slash wounds, and one to her throat/neck area. At the time of the attack, she was wearing a gold necklace, which simultaneously saved her life, and almost killed her. When she was stabbed, it became so deeply embedded in her neck that it had to be removed via emergency surgery and was mere millimeters from her carotid artery. The prosecution argued that Routier’s neck wound—which can best be described as what appears to be a slash wound at about a 20 degree angle—was inflicted by herself, possibly as she stood over the sink (this theory is built on the fact that there was blood on the ledge of the counter in front of the sink), even though she’s right handed. It would seem, even to a person like myself who knows very little about geometry, that it would be almost impossible to inflict such a violent wound with a non-dominant hand, and get just lucky enough to almost hit a major artery, but not. Not to mention, the amount of blood found near the sink, and the amount of blood that would come from a neck wound are not similar. At all.
Darin’s plot to stage a robbery: The fact that the police never even seemed to investigate Darin Routier is extremely bothersome. Especially since his background is sketchy. Though the couple lived well, they were living beyond their means, and Darin had purchased a Jaguar. In 1994, he told someone, “it wouldn’t bother me” if the car went missing. It did, and he collected on the insurance money. He then concocted a much more sinister scam. In his own words: “In March or April, 1996, I asked my father-in-law Robbie Gene Kee, if he knew anyone who would agree to burglarize my home as part of an insurance scam.” He talked to several people about it over the next few months, including people he knew to be car thieves. Was this a burglary gone awry arranged by Darin Routier himself? Possibly.
The sock: This is the most damning evidence. When Darlie chased the intruder out of the laundry room, he supposedly exited through a gate in her backyard and into an alley. When investigators checked that alley, they found a bloody sock lying in a neighbor’s yard, approximately 75 yards away, with blood matching the boys. According to the timetable—Darlie is supposed to have stabbed each of her sons multiple times, slit her neck and forearm, run 75 yards through a back alley, in the dark to place a bloody sock, and back, to stage a crime scene, scream for her husband who will find her downstairs acting like a concerned mother and preparing to call 911—it doesn’t make sense. According to good ol’ forensic science, the boys could have only lived 8-9 minutes after the attack. Darlie was on the phone with 911 for nearly six minutes, and Damon was still alive when the paramedics arrived, so she had a window of 3 minutes, at the very most, to commit and stage the entire crime. There is absolutely no way in hell that happened.
The unidentified pubic hair, limb hair, and bloody fingerprints: There has been a lot of controversy about this over the years. There were bloody fingerprints found on a side table and the laundry room door that were never identified, as well as pubic and other body hairs. Granted, the hair can be easily explained away by many a theory. However, I would argue that there’s a 110% chance the bloody fingerprints were put there that night. Since it was determined that they didn’t belong to Darlie, Darin, or the boys… whose are they?
The second murder weapon is missing: Yes, that’s right. There were two murder weapons, and nobody can explain where the second one is. Fun fact, Routier was actually only charged with one count of capital murder because they couldn’t find the knife that killed her son, Devon. Investigators went through the house and didn’t find the second knife, which proves that it wasn’t there. Unless Darlie left the house, which I don’t think she did, the intruder most likely took the murder weapon when they fled.
So, what do I think? That’s a good question. I’ve been following this case for years, and it’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot. My heart tells me she’s innocent, but my brain tells me to be mindful of the evidence. All of the evidence, which, when put together to form this messy, terrifying puzzle, points in both directions.