In the early morning hours of June 6, 1996, in Dallas, Texas, Darlie Routier called 911 in hysterics, screaming that an intruder had broken in to her home and stabbed her and her two young sons. Just a few weeks later, Routier was charged (and ultimately convicted) for the murders of Devon, 6, and Damon, 5. She is now one of 55 women on death row and maintains her innocence. But Routier's supporters say authorities had tunnel vision from the start, conducted a sloppy investigation and ignored evidence that contradicted their theory.
Police were instantly suspicious, because Routier told them she had little memory of the brutal attack. She and the boys fell asleep in the living room watching a movie, she said, while her husband Darin slept upstairs with their infant son. Routier remembered Damon shaking her awake and seeing the back of male figure walking out of the dark room, through the kitchen and into the garage. She called 911 as soon as she saw all the blood.
Routier was stabbed in the neck near a critical artery, requiring emergency surgery, but prosecutors claimed the wounds were self-inflicted; photos taken at the hospital that show defensive black-and-blue bruises on Routier's arms – and they were never shown to the jury.
Additionally, bloody clothing belonging to Routier and her children were put in the same evidence bag, risking contamination. The defense didn't call their own forensic expert to refute prosecution witness Tom Bevel's testimony that the blood spatter on Routier's nightshirt was "consistent with" having repeatedly stabbed her sons. His findings have since been disputed as inconclusive and misleading, and over the last 20 years, Bevel's expert testimony has been linked to at least three wrongful convictions.
Router's supporters also say police tainted the crime scene, moved furniture and objects before photos were taken, and hastily concluded evidence of forced entry and an intruder – like a sliced window screen in the garage, and a bloody sock in a nearby alley – had been "staged" by Router.
Lacking an obvious motive for such a heinous crime, prosecutors portrayed Routier as a vapid bimbo – she had "bleached hair" and fake breasts – who missed her "lavish" child-free lifestyle. Their most damning evidence was a TV news segment, filmed at the boys' grave, which showed Routier laughing and playing with silly string.
"She had just lost two children, and yet she's out literally dancing on their graves," the prosecutor told them.
Family and friends were actually celebrating what would have been Devon's 7th birthday; hours earlier, Routier sobbed through a somber memorial service. There was footage of that too, but the jury only saw "silly string" portion, which they asked to view seven times during deliberations.
After the trial, one juror admitted, "if we had been able to see the whole picture of what happened that day, I believe I would not have voted to convict."
In 2002, a leading forensic anthropologist determined that a bloody fingerprint found on a glass table did not match anyone in the Routier family or involved in the investigation, and her current appeal is pending further advanced DNA testing. The State of Texas has offered to reduce Routier's sentence to life without parole if she would admit guilt, but she's refused.