Darlie Lynn Peck Routier (born January 4, 1970) is an American woman from Rowlett, Texas, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of her five-year-old son Damon in 1996. She has also been charged with capital murder in the death of her six-year-old son, Devon, who was murdered at the same time as Damon. To date, Routier has not specifically been tried for Devon’s murder.
Darlie Lynn Peck
January 4, 1970
Altoona, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Criminal status||On death row|
|Spouse(s)||Darin Routier (divorced)|
|Children||Devon, Damon, and Drake|
|Conviction(s)||Capital murder, one count|
|Imprisoned at||Mountain View Unit, Texas Department of Criminal Justice|
Damon and Devon were stabbed to death with a large kitchen knife in Routier's home, while Routier sustained knife wounds to her throat and arm. Routier told authorities that the crime was perpetrated by an unidentified intruder. During the trial, the prosecution argued that Routier's injuries were self-inflicted, that the crime scene had been staged, and that she murdered her sons because of the family's financial difficulties; the defense argued that there was no reason Routier would have killed her children, and that the case did not have a motive, a confession, or any witnesses. In February 1997, the jury found Routier guilty of the murder of Damon, and sentenced her to death by lethal injection.
Two appeals filed by Routier, who maintains her innocence, based on allegations of irregularities during the trial were denied, but new DNA tests were ordered multiple times after technology had advanced. As of 2021, the results of these tests are still pending.
Routier's case has been the subject of multiple books and television shows.
|Routier's 911 call|
On June 6, 1996, at 2:31 am, 9-1-1 dispatchers in Rowlett, Texas, received a call from the Routier residence at 5801 Eagle Drive. Routier told the operator that her home had been broken in to and that an intruder had stabbed her children, six-year-old Devon and five-year-old Damon, and cut her throat. Police arrived within three minutes of the 9-1-1 call. They discovered a window screen in the garage had been cut, which indicated a possible entry point for an intruder. A search of the house and grounds did not locate an intruder. Having thus secured the site, police permitted paramedics to attend to the victims.
Routier told the police that she had fallen asleep on the couch with her two boys while watching television, only to wake up later and discover an unknown man in her house. She stated that as she approached him, the man fled, dropping the knife in a utility room as he ran. After picking up the knife and chasing him away, Routier said she realized that she and her children had been wounded and that she called 9-1-1. Police found it highly suspicious that Routier and her sons had been severely wounded by an armed intruder without waking her until after the attack had occurred.
Routier told police that the assailant escaped through the garage. Investigators said that the garage contained no blood drops, and added that indications were that no one had run through there at all. The window sills in the garage had untouched layers of dust, including the window that had been cut, implying that no one had actually climbed through it, and the mulch in the flower beds between the garage and the backyard gate was undisturbed. However, an unknown fingerprint was found on the windowsill that did not belong to anyone in the family. 75 yards away from the house, a bloody sock was discovered. Lab tests revealed it had blood from both Damon and Devon on it.
Routier's sons sustained fatal injuries. Her wounds, described as superficial, came within two millimeters of her carotid artery. Routier was treated at a hospital and released two days later. Her youngest son, 7-month-old Drake, was asleep upstairs with her husband Darin at the time of the murders; both escaped harm.
Newscasts showed Routier and other family members holding a birthday party at the boys' grave to posthumously celebrate Devon's seventh birthday eight days after the murders. She was shown smiling and laughing as she sprayed Silly String on the graves in celebration, singing "Happy Birthday". Family members point out that the newscasts did not show an earlier video that depicted a solemn ceremony honoring the children. Four days later, on June 18, Routier was arrested and charged with capital murder.
Routier later commented on the video, saying, "He wanted to be seven. I did the only thing I knew to do to honor him and give him all his wishes because he wasn't here anymore. But how do you know what you're going to do when you lose two children? How do you know how you're going to act?"
Routier's trial began on January 6, 1997, in Kerrville, Texas. The prosecution suggested that Routier murdered her sons because of the family's financial difficulties. Prosecutors described her as a "pampered, materialistic woman with substantial debt, plummeting credit ratings, and little money in the bank, who feared that her lavish lifestyle was about to end". Jurors also saw the Silly String video. Crime scene consultant James Cron testified that evidence suggested the scene inside the Routier residence had been staged.
The prosecution also suggested there was a financial motive for the murders since both boys had a life insurance policy on them. The defense contended that this amounted to only $10,000, not enough to cover their funeral expenses. Furthermore they asked as to why, if she was willing to murder for money, that she did not kill her husband instead, who had an $800,000 life insurance policy. The defense also questioned why, if she killed her sons to preserve her lavish lifestyle, she left her youngest son, seven-month-old Drake, alive and unharmed.
Routier was represented at trial by lawyer Douglas Mulder. Defense attorneys said that there was no reason why she would have killed her children and that the case did not have a motive, a confession or any witnesses. They asserted that it was unrealistic to accuse Routier of staging a crime scene. Her attorneys advised her not to appear on the witness stand, but she testified anyway and "withered under cross-examination by prosecutor Toby Shook."
San Antonio chief medical examiner Vincent DiMaio testified that the wound to Routier's neck came within two millimeters of her carotid artery and that it was not consistent with the self-inflicted wounds he had seen in the past. That differed from the assertions of her treating physicians, who had told police officials that the wounds might have been self-inflicted. Tom Bevel testified that cast-off blood found on the back of Routier's nightshirt indicated that she had raised the knife over her head as she withdrew it from each boy to stab again.
One crucial aspect of the defense case was the bloody sock found outside the house. While the police contended that this was merely a ruse designed to falsely implicate an intruder had fled the scene, the defense contended that it proved Routier could not have committed the crime. Damon was alive when the paramedics arrived on the scene and the medical examiner testified that the boy could only have survived approximately eight minutes after receiving his injuries. Routier was on the phone with 9-1-1 for almost six minutes. The defense argued that this did not leave enough time for Routier to cut herself, stage the crime scene, plant the sock outside the house and then return before the paramedics arrived. They also stated that, despite her injuries, Routier's blood was not found in the garage or anywhere outside the home. The prosecution countered that Routier could have planted the sock before self-inflicting her own injuries, and the medical examiner's stated survival time for Damon after he was stabbed was only an estimation.
Post-trial claims and appealsEdit
Defense attorneys allege numerous errors were made during Routier's trial and in the official transcript of it, as well as the investigation of the murders, especially at the crime scene. An appeals court dismissed these claims, as did a court ruling on her habeas corpus petition.
In June 2008, Routier was granted the right to new DNA tests. Her appeals were remanded to the state level for improved DNA testing. On January 29, 2014, Chief Judge of the Western District Fred Biery granted a request from prosecution and defense for her case for further DNA tests vital to the defense to be performed on a bloody fingerprint found in the house, a bloody sock and her nightshirt. In 2018, the Criminal District Court No. 3 ordered a third round of DNA testing with the backing of both prosecution and defense.
In June 2011, Darin Routier filed for divorce from his wife, saying that the decision was mutual and "very difficult," and that he still believes his wife is innocent. He said that they decided to divorce to end the "limbo" that they had been in since her arrest and conviction.
The 1999 book Precious Angels: A True Story of Two Slain Children and a Mother Convicted of Murder by Barbara Davis accounted for Routier's guilt. The author has since changed her mind and now supports Routier by donating all the income from the book to her family.
In the 2015 book Dateline Purgatory: Examining the Case that Sentenced Darlie Routier to Death journalist Kathy Cruz engages legal experts for their assessments on Routier's trial transgressions and highlighting the controversies of the death penalty conviction. Throughout the book Cruz collaborates with a former FBI special agent on her examination of the case.
The 2017 book Bloodstained Justice: The Darlie Routier Story by Wanda G. Davis, documents Darlie Routier's family members' arguments that crucial evidence was overlooked by authorities during her trial.
An October 1999 episode of the TLC documentary series Medical Detectives entitled "Invisible Intruder" (S4; E1), reports on how detectives discovered who the killer was by analyzing the crime scene's blood spatter, Darlie's 911 call and the offender profiling of her behavior.
Unsolved Mysteries with Robert Stack covered the case in Season 12 Episode 6. The case was again revisited on Unsolved Mysteries with Dennis Farina. Both episodes shared evidence from both sides of the case, including those who claim Darlie to be innocent and those pointing towards her guilt.
|48 Hours: Precious Angels, full episode – CBS News video|
An episode of the CBS News series 48 Hours entitled Precious Angels is derived from the true-crime book of the same title, authored by Barbara Davis, which first aired August 10, 2001. CBS correspondent Bill Lagattuta interviewed Darin Routier, the incarcerated Darlie Routier and Davis about the slayings; associated public officials and defense attorneys were also interviewed.
The Investigation Discovery network aired an episode of Werner Herzog's series On Death Row entitled "Darlie Routier" that covered the case in Season 2, Episode 2, broadcast on September 10, 2013.
An American Broadcasting Company (ABC) seven-episode documentary series, The Last Defense examines the death row cases of Darlie Routier and Julius Jones. The series premiered on June 12, 2018, profiling Routier's case in a four-part episode:
- List of women on death row in the United States
- List of women executed in the United States since 1976
Other cases of filicide in Texas:
- Ronald Clark O'Bryan (1974)
- John Battaglia (2001)
- Andrea Yates (2001)
- Deanna Laney (2003)
- Dena Schlosser
Other filicides in the United States perpetrated by women:
Accusations of filicide:
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TV-14| 21min | Aired 6 October 1999
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The other true-crime books to be examined are ..., "Precious Angels" by Barbara Davis,...
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