On 6 June 1996 Darlie Routier’s two young sons were brutally butchered. Did she commit the unthinkable crime?

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Living the dream

Childhood sweethearts, Darlie and Darin Routier were the ultimate all-American family. With Darin’s computer business booming, they were ‘living the dream’ in an upper middle class area of Texas. With a flash car, lavish home and expensive clothing, their two sons, Devon and Damon, wanted for nothing.

Except, a few years later Darin’s business began to falter and with it came financial problems for the couple. Their marriage was rumoured to be in trouble too, there was talk of affairs.

Darlie was said to be obsessed with the trappings of wealth and, apparently, had little patience for her boys, who she blamed for losing her looks. But despite the whispers, in October 1995 the couple had their third son Drake.

Suffering from post-natal depression, and unable to lose her baby weight, Darlie, then 26, confided to Darin about having suicidal thoughts. But as they talked, it seemed things were looking fixable for the young couple. Until, tragedy struck. Something no-one could fix.

Around 2.30am, on 6 June 1996, Darlie called police, frantic.

‘Somebody broke into our house…they just stabbed me and my children,’ she screamed. ‘My little boys are dying! Oh my God, my babies are dying!’

Officers soon arrived to find a sickening scene. Damon, then 5, and Devon, 6, lay on the floor in the living room by the telly, in pools of blood. Snuggled up with their 8-month-old Drake, Darin had slept through the whole horrific ordeal. Only woke to Darlie’s gut-wrenching screams.

Torn between his two boys, Darin now tried to breathe life back into Devon. But it was too late. The huge gashes in Devon’s chest, puncturing his lungs, proved too much for his tiny body to take.

Damon was still clinging to life though, gasping for breath. But shortly after, he died on the way to hospital.

How did Darlie survive?

Luckily for Darlie, her wounds were only superficial. Distraught she managed to explain an intruder had entered their home and climbed on top of her on the sofa while she slept. She struggled with him before he eventually fled the scene. It was only then she noticed her two sons lying butchered on the floor.

‘While I was sleeping…me and my little boys were sleeping downstairs…someone came in…stabbed my babies…. stabbed me…I woke up…I was fighting…he ran out through the garage…’ she sobbed, still in her blood-soaked nightie.

As paramedics tried to patch Darlie up, she was hysterical, convinced the intruder was still hiding somewhere. But detectives found no trace of him. Finally, they found the murder weapon in the kitchen. A butcher’s knife, presumably left behind as the attacker fled.

Before long, the Routier home was flooded with police. But the key piece of evidence – the bloody knife – was covered in fingerprints, including Darlie’s, after she’d picked it up from the lounge floor after the attack.

And Devon’s wounds had been made with a different blade, but police found no trace of it. As the investigation continued, things weren’t adding up. Amongst other things, detectives noted the kitchen sink appeared to have been cleaned following the violent attack. Then there was no blood trail leading from the family’s home. It was as if the killer had vanished into thin air.

And, what was the killer’s motive? Expensive jewellery and cash remained untouched, and there’d been no sexual assault. Meanwhile, Darlie and Darin had to endure the horror of going to their own children’s funeral.

‘I’m sorry,’ Darlie said, kneeling beside their coffins.

As prayers were said, there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen…apart from Darlie’s. She didn’t shed a tear. And just eight days later, Darlie held a graveside birthday party to celebrate Devon’s 7th birthday. Smiling and laughing, she sprayed Silly String everywhere.

Blood on a mother’s hands

Alamy

Four days later, police finally moved in on who they believed was the true killer of Devon and Damon.

Darlie – their own mother.

Unthinkable. But Darlie was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder. Soon, the evidence began to mount up.

On top of all the inconsistencies, a picture was emerging of a family in dire financial troubles, and of Darlie struggling to maintain her lavish lifestyle.

But was it motive for murder?

At her trial, in January 1997, Darlie pleaded not guilty. But the prosecution branded Darlie a heartless killer, self-centered and materialistic. Coroner Janice Townsend-Parchman testified the boys’ wounds were savage and deep, but described Darlie’s as ‘hesitation wounds’, possibly self-inflicted. Next there was the kitchen sink clean-up, done by Darlie after she’d made the alleged self-inflicted slashes to her neck and shoulder. Then of course there was the lack of any real evidence of an intruder in the house. Detectives believed the crime scene looked ‘staged’.

However, the defence called a string of witnesses, all vouching for Darlie’s good character. A chief medical examiner also testified Darlie’s wounds were actually extremely serious, missing her main artery by 2mm.

But even with all the evidence, would the jury really believe this mum could brutally slaughter her own children in cold blood?

After hours of deliberation a jury found Darlie Routier guilty of murder. Three days later she was handed the death penalty. She’s currently still on death row awaiting execution, but has appealed her conviction.