Twenty Years Later, Darlie Routier Murder Case Remembered

Sensational case of Rowlett mother and two sons still stirs debate

Twenty years after one of the most infamous crimes in North Texas history, a Rowlett mother sits on death row for killing her two young sons, a vicious crime she has always blamed on an intruder.

On June 6, 1996, at about 2:30 a.m., Darlie Routier called 911, claiming a man had broken into her home and, without saying a word, stabbed her and her two sons, six-year-old Devon and five-year-old Damon.

"Oh my God, who would do this?" she asked the emergency operator.

Both boys were killed.

She said the stranger stabbed her in her neck, shoulder and arm. She was treated at a hospital but released a few days later.

Her husband, Darin, and baby son, Drake, were upstairs and weren't hurt.

Rowlett Police Lt. David Nabors, then the crime scene supervisor, rushed to the Routiers' home, knowing right away it would be a major case.

"Oh absolutely. I mean, we had two children that were dead (and) a mother that had a cut to her neck," he said in a recent interview.

As police investigated, the family threw a birthday party for Devon, who would have turned seven years old a few days after his death.

The celebration, at the boy's gravesite, included spraying Silly String.

Nabors said investigators found that behavior unusual and even inappropriate.

Some people quietly wondered if it really happened the way Darlie Routier claimed.

"Gossip is the biggest evil in the world," she said in an interview at the cemetery. "Unfortunately there's nothing you can do to stop it."

But she and her husband cooperated with police.

And at first, detectives believed her.

"We were operating under the assumption this was an intruder," Nabors said.

But then, detectives focused on the bloody crime scene.

"Physical evidence, if it's properly collected, is a silent witness and it's not prejudiced," he said.

And he said it started telling a different story.

"As the case progressed we started seeing that there were inconsistencies in the statements made and the physical evidence we were collecting," Nabors said.

For example, he said, the point of entry: The screen that the "intruder" had supposedly cut.

Police said fibers on a bread knife showed it was used to cut the screen. The knife was found, in a block with other knives, inside the Routiers' kitchen.

And then there was the motion-activated security light in the Routiers' back yard.

"I timed it, stayed on about 17 minutes," Nabors said.

When the first officers arrived immediately after the 911 call, they noticed the light turned on when they went in the back yard. If the killer had gone out the door Routier claimed, it would have still been on, he said.

Investigators also found Routier's clothing had blood spatters on the shoulders consistent with her wielding the knife.

"So that castoff is another piece of evidence, and it puts the knife in her hand," Nabors said.

Thirteen days after the murders, police arrested Darlie Routier and charged her with capital murder.

"She never cried until she was told she was under arrest for the capital murder of her child," he said.

Her case moved quickly in court. The trial was held in Kerrville because of the extensive publicity in North Texas.

After deliberating eight hours, a jury convicted her and sentenced her to death.

But to this day, her case still stirs debate.

Kathy Cruz, a reporter at the Hood County News, wrote a book about the Routier case called "Dateline Purgatory."

"I think it's very likely the state got this wrong," Cruz said.

She interviewed Darlie Routier on death row and said she came across "perfectly fine, likable, friendly, certainly normal."

What about the evidence at the crime scene?

Cruz offers different explanations.

The fibers from the screen on the Routiers' bread knife, for example, could have come from police fingerprint brushes.

"I think there was definitely a rush to judgment," Cruz said.

And the video of the unusual Silly String celebration at the gravesite, which prosecutors showed to the jury?

"It's proof of nothing. So what?" Cruz said. "What that jury never saw was footage of the hour-long memorial service that took place just before the birthday celebration during which 'appropriate' grief was shown."

Routier's supporters argue at the very least, she deserves a new trial.

"You know, let the state put on the same evidence they put on 20 years ago and see if it flies today," Cruz said.

Police and prosecutors insist the trial was fair, the investigation solid.

For Darlie Routier, not much has changed over the last 20 years.

She remains locked up in Gatesville, one of six Texas women on death row.

Her attorneys continue their appeals.

No execution date has been set.

Darlie Routier and her now ex-husband Darin declined requests for an interview.

If Devon and Damon were still alive today, they would be 25 and 26 years old.

Contact Us