On June 6, 1996, a horrific double murder shook a peaceful Dallas suburb to its core. Hours before dawn, a frantic 911 call was placed to the Rowlett Police Department, and the person on the other end could not believe what she was hearing. A panicked woman was screaming into the phone, “My little boys are dying! Oh my God, my babies are dying!”
The address came up as 5801 Eagle Drive in the upper class Dalrock Heights Addition – hardly the kind of place that was accustomed to violence. But the caller kept sobbing and repeating, “My babies are dying! My babies are dying!”
Doris Trammel, the dispatcher on duty, sprang into action. “Ma’am, please calm down and tell me what happened,” she implored. At the same time, she quickly punched up the main police unit line and issued a standby alert for a medical emergency. The situation was sounding worse by the minute, as the woman began to scream, “Somebody broke into our house! They just stabbed me and my children!”
Darlie Routier, the distraught mother, sobbed out more details. “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…threw the knife down…”
Trammell was able to get the names and ages of the two boys: Devon, 6, and Damon, 5. And a police unit called to report that emergency medical assistance was on the way.
First to arrive at the scene was Officer David Waddell. He was literally sickened by the sight and the smell of blood. He had never seen anything like it. Trying hard to contain himself, he observed the two children. One appeared to be dead, and the other had barely a hint of a pulse. He instructed Darlie to lay towels across him and apply pressure to his wound, but she ignored his pleas and frantically kept screaming that the intruder might still be in the garage.
Sergeant Matthew Walling entered the crime scene, along with two paramedics. They were also overwhelmed by the scent of death. With two children dead or dying and a woman soaked in blood and pressing a rag to her throat, they immediately realized they needed to call for backup.
Earlier, the boys’ father, 28-year-old Darin Routier, had been awakened by his wife’s screams and rushed downstairs. He found Devon and Damon lying blood-soaked on the floor while Darlie, also covered in blood, paced around and screamed at the police dispatcher.
Darin had rushed to Devon’s side and saw
two huge gashes in his chest. He could detect no pulse and turned his attention to Damon. The child struggled to breathe, and his lungs rattled as he tried to get air into them. His father panicked for a moment and then began trying to perform CPR. But when he breathed into Damon’s mouth, blood sprayed back onto his face.
Now, Waddell and Walling turned their attention to the intruder. A trail of blood led from the murder scene to the attached garage, which was accessible from the kitchen and a small utility room. Slowly and carefully, they turned on the lights and moved forward, searching all the way. No one was there, but they did notice that a side window screen had been sliced down the middle.
Knowing that the attacker could be somewhere in the house, they looked in every room, closet and crawlspace but found no one except for an infant third child in its crib, identified by Darin as 6-month-old Drake.
Stopping for a few minutes in the kitchen, reported by Darlie to be the killer’s escape route, they took stock of what evidence presented itself: the blood-spattered tile floor, a vacuum cleaner knocked over, and a bloodied butcher knife on the island countertop. Beside that were a closed woman’s purse and some expensive-looking jewelry. Investigators concluded that robbery had not been the motive.
Three more paramedics had arrived, and they did what they could to keep Damon alive until they could reach the hospital. The two large gashes had penetrated his lungs. Damon died on the way.
A K-9 unit was brought in to help. Officer Waddell briefed the commander and joined the team for a search of the neighborhood.
Darlie grimaced as an IV line was put into her arm and Steri-Strips were applied to her shallow throat cut. By now, she was giving what information she could to Sergeant Walling, including a description of her attacker as a male, medium-to-tall, dressed in black T-shirt, jeans and baseball cap.
She went on to say that that he had entered the home and mounted her where she slept on the sofa. When she awoke, she screamed and began to struggle. As she fought him off, he escaped toward the garage. And that’s when she discovered her sons had been attacked.
It was 3 A.M. when Welling finished his interview. Darlie needed medical attention and was taken away by the paramedics. Darin had a neighbor drive him to the hospital to be with her, and the neighbor’s wife stayed to babysit the infant.
At about that time, Lieutenant Grant Jack, commander of the Investigative Division, arrived. He was shown around and briefed by Detective Jimmy Patterson, a veteran of the Crimes Against Persons Division. The murder weapon was still where it had been, placed on the counter top by Darlie when she found it on the floor.
Uniformed and plainclothes officers swarmed through the house, looking for clues or anything suspicious. On the winding staircase, two of them encountered a yapping dog that held them at bay until the neighbor’s wife called it off. She explained that it didn’t like strangers, which raised the question of why it didn’t react during the murders. Darlie had told police that she didn’t hear a thing.
Back downstairs, the body of Devon was being placed in a plastic morgue bag. Lieutenant Jack, a 20-year police veteran, had never witnessed such slaughter. He turned away, and tears flowed from his eyes.
“For months, when I’d come home from work, I’d walk into my five-year-old’s room to check on him,” Jack later recalled. “When I looked at my son sleeping, I didn’t see him, I saw Damon in the morgue and Devon on the floor…I just couldn’t shake the vision.”
But he was bothered by something else, too – the gnawing feeling that something just wasn’t right. Jimmy Patterson felt it, too.
Away from the ears of the media now gathered on Eagle Drive, Sgt. Walling took his superior into his confidence. Jack noticed that he looked stunned. He said, “Lieutenant, you won’t believe what Mr. Routier said to me right before he left to go to the hospital with his wife. He turned to me and I swear to God he said, ‘Golly, I guess this is the biggest thing Rowlett’s ever had.’ The man had two of his children slaughtered tonight, and he’s acting like the damn circus is in town!”
“No,” Jack thought to himself, “things don’t add up.”
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, some questions were arising. The sink was spotlessly clean, but the floor and countertop around it were smudged with blood. The chemical compound luminol was sprayed on the sink’s surface to reveal the presence of blood residue, which will glow brightly if so treated. When the lights were turned off, the entire sink surface shone with a telltale bluish light. But why would someone go the trouble of cleaning blood out of the sink?
Further examination revealed a small child’s bloody handprint had been wiped from the edge of a leatherette sofa.
At the same time, crime scene consultant James Cron was seeing other things that didn’t fit the narrative of the case. In fact, as soon as he arrived, his many years of experience told him that Darlie Routier’s description of what happened didn’t hold water.
She had stated she believed the killer had entered and escaped through the garage. But the slit screen showed no indication of having been pushed in or out so a body could pass through it. In fact, the entire frame could easily have been removed if someone wanted to gain access. The ground below the window was not disturbed. And there were no signs of forced entry.
Further investigation revealed that there was no blood evidence in the yard or anywhere else except inside the house.
In the entertainment room, where Darlie had described her fight with the intruder taking place, nothing indicated that much of anything had happened. In fact, there was some indication that someone had attempted to fabricate signs of a struggle.
Much later that day, after his thorough examination, Cron reported his findings to Lieutenant Jack and Sergeant Walling:
“We all know the crime scene tells the story. Problem is, that story’s not the same one the mother’s telling. Somebody inside this house did this thing. Gentlemen, there was no intruder.”
On the day after the murders, Darlie was interviewed again by detectives. Her story had become more detailed: “I woke up hearing my son Damon saying ‘Mommy Mommy,’ as he tugged on my nightshirt. I opened my eyes and felt a man get off me. I got up to chase after him. As I flipped the light in the kitchen on, I saw him open his hand and let the knife drop to the floor. Then he ran out through the garage. I went over and picked up the knife. I shouldn’t have picked it up. I probably covered up the fingerprints. I shouldn’t have picked it up. I looked over and saw my two babies with blood all over them. I didn’t realize my own throat had been cut until I saw myself in a mirror. I screamed out to my husband.”
But by then, Darlie’s account was quickly unraveling. Her bloody footprints were found under a vacuum cleaner and broken glass, indicating they had been put there after she went through the kitchen instead of before, as she had claimed. In addition, she had no cuts on the soles of her feet.
Just eight days after the killings, suspicions were heightened by news footage showing Darlie Routier and other family members holding a bizarre birthday party at the children’s’ burial site to celebrate Devon’s 7th birthday. She’s seen smiling and laughing and even spraying Silly String on the graves. There were reports of other situations in which she acted as if nothing had happened.
Four days later, she was arrested for murder.
In 1997, a court found Darlie guilty of perhaps the worst of human crimes: the cold-blooded killing of her own two children. There was no clear motive, but the prosecution described her as a shrewish, materialistic young woman who, burdened with major debt, bad credit and few liquid assets, felt her and her husband’s lavish lifestyle slipping away. In spite of the success of Darin’s business, their lifestyle expenditures were exceeding their income. Somehow Darlie saw her horrible act as helping to solve the problem.
She was accused of killing both children, but was prosecuted only for the murder of Damon. Filing for divorce in 2011, Darin stated that he still believed in her innocence. And there are others who do, as well. Efforts are ongoing to have her verdict reversed, based upon trial irregularities and errors during the investigation.
Meanwhile, Darlie Lynn Routier is on death row, awaiting execution by lethal injection.