Did Darlie Routier murder her sons in brutal knife attack? The clues behind the case as Susanna Reid meets death row mum

Did Darlie Routier murder her sons in brutal knife attack? The clues behind the case as Susanna Reid meets death row mum

WATCHING on in horror, Susanna Reid listens as the death row inmate sitting in front of her describes seeing her two young sons lying motionless on the floor, covered in blood.

But are these the true memories of an innocent woman, or twisted by a vicious murderer who killed her own children?

Darlie Routier, now 50, has spent the last 23 years on death row after being convicted of the murder of one of her sons, while remaining accused of killing the other.

Darlie, who was 26 at the time, claims she woke up on June 6, 1996, to find her six and five-year-old children with multiple stab wounds.

She too had a deep cut to her neck, and a stab wound on her arm, and claims they were attacked by an unknown man.

However, her story was shot down in court in 1997, with prosecutors accusing her of making up the story. It was enough to convince a jury that it was her that killed her kids, and she was convicted and sentenced to death.

Darlie, who maintains her innocence, is now speaking out in new ITV documentary, Death Row's Women With Susanna Reid, as she works on appealing her sentence.

Here, we look at how the case unfolded – plus the clues pointing towards her guilt, and those potentially casting doubt on it.

'I just kept telling him, 'hang on baby''

On the surface, Darlie appeared to live a happy life with her husband Darin and their sons Devon, six, Damon, five, and 18-month-old Drake.

However, when Susanna meets her in the Mountain View Unit of Gatesville prison in Texas for the documentary, more than two decades on, she is unrecognisable.

While she remains convicted of murdering her kids, Darlie continues to insist she's innocent. And she wastes no time in telling her grim version of what she claims happened that night.

“Devon and Damon wanted to sleep downstairs, like a little kids slumber party. So I was going to sleep down there with them," she says.

“I remember waking up with Damon pushing on my right shoulder. As I came to, I remember seeing a man… he was going into the utility room.

“I could see the side of him, I could see a baseball hat. At that time I didn’t know what was happening but I felt like a panic.

“When I got to the utility room there was a knife, and I picked up the knife, put the knife on the counter. At this point I started screaming for my husband.”

She says she immediately rang 911 as Darin came downstairs and claims: “I could see Devon laying there and his eyes were open. And he wasn’t moving.

“Then I remember I went over to Damon and he was laying on his back, and I could see he had been stabbed in the back."

Breaking down in tears, she adds: “I lifted up [Damon's] shirt and I put towels on his shirt and I just kept telling him, ‘hang on baby, hang on just hang on’.”

It later emerged Devon was stabbed repeatedly in the chest, while Damon was stabbed in the back. Devon tragically died at the scene, while his younger brother passed away in hospital.

Darlie's chilling 911 call is played in the documentary, in which she can be heard hysterically pleading for help, saying: "They just stabbed me and my children… my little boys. Hurry, My God my babies are dying.”

Susanna has since admitted hearing her version of events, whether true or not, was harrowing.

“There are times when Darlie breaks down in front of me, crying about the sight of her slain sons, and I feel the tears stinging my own eyes…times when I have to remind myself that my instinctive maternal empathy does not mean she’s an innocent woman," she wrote in a first-person piece for the Daily Mail.

However, her story was shut down in court, as prosecutors accused her of lying throughout…

Horror injuries and blood-soaked walls

Several gruesome crime scene photos are aired in the documentary, showing blood covering the floor, the walls and even the furniture.

And some of the blood came from Darlie herself.

“He slashed my throat, stabbed me several times," she claims of the assailant she alleges attacked her.

"I had bruising up to my armpits, the inside of my mouth was torn apart… I had bruises around my wrist.”

Darlie was told that one of her arteries had been nicked, and had it been 2mm more, she’d have bled to death in minutes.

It's these horror injuries she claims prove her innocence. But prosecutors alleged in the court case in January 1997 that she inflicted them on herself, as forensics later found a series of clues pointing to her lying.

While blood was found in the sink – which they claim shows she may have tried to "clean up" – there were also bloody footprints found in the kitchen, underneath an upturned vacuum and broken glass.

Prosecutors claimed this showed that she must have walked in there before the items were thrown down in an apparent staging of a crime scene.

They also threw into question why her own injuries were so much less severe than her sons, if an intruder had really wished to kill her.

The birthday party by her son's graveside

Perhaps one of the most shocking videos to emerge in court was of Darlie appearing to celebrate by her son's graveside – chewing gum and spraying Silly String at the gravestones – on what would have been his seventh birthday.

“They had a party at the graveside. Darlie was spraying Silly String on the graves and they had balloons out and that sort of thing," prosecutor Toby Shook says.

“She was chewing gum, she wasn’t crying, and she looked like she was enjoying the attention.

“She didn’t have the demeanour of a mother whose children had been brutally murdered a few days before.”

However, Darlie insists the gathering between her and a couple of close friends and family was a mark of respect for her son – celebrating his life.

“They took something that was beautiful, they took something that was so innocent and made out of love, and they turned it into something ugly. It was twisted and taken out of context," she tells Susanna.

Her appeal lawyer Stephen Cooper backs her story, and points out that there was another video that wasn't shown in the original trial – of her being comforted at a two-hour memorial to her sons earlier that day.

A bloody fingerprint, a discarded sock and 'knife fibres'

A couple of droplets of the boys' blood were also apparently found on Darlie's shirt following the horrific incident, which prosecutors claimed were "cast-offs" and therefore proof that she attacked her sons.

However, Cooper says a major flaw in the original defence was that no counter experts were presented in court, who may have had a different opinion of what was found at the crime scene.

He also raises the fact a bloody fingerprint was found at the scene, not belonging to anyone inside. It has yet to be identified.

Meanwhile, a sock with two droplets of blood on it – belonging to both boys – was found 75 yards from the house.

While prosecutors claimed it was part of her plan to stage the 'attack', Cooper insists the times don't add up – and she wouldn't had time to kill her boys, call 911, run and discard the sock, and run back again to stage the scene and cut her own throat.

Finally, there's the alleged 'point of entry' – a slashed door screen which Darlie and her lawyer claim must have been where an intruder got in and out.

After analysis was carried out on other knives at the property, a separate bread knife was found to have a screen fibre on it.

While the prosecution claims this is more evidence pointing to her guilt – as why else would a knife in her kitchen have evidence on it – her appeal lawyer says otherwise.

He claims, if it were used to slash the screen, there would be far more than one fibre on the knife.

Family's support, despite the odds

While speaking to Darlie, Susanna points out that some reports at the time of the crime painted her as "vain".

But she hits back: "When you have nothing else, you go to character assassination.

“I’ve never had a mental illness. You don’t just snap and become crazy and then snap back and become normal.”

Other reports apparently labelled her “cold” and “self-centred”, and prosecutor Toby Shook insists that she also gave differing versions of events, throwing her story into ever more doubt.

He points out how she and her husband had enjoyed a lavish life, but money was allegedly tight at the time, and their marriage under strain.

But despite the overwhelming evidence against her, Darlie's family – including her only surviving son Drake – have continued supporting her, with many of them believing she's innocent.

Cooper insists: “I am about as close to it as anyone else on Earth and I can tell you she didn’t do it.

“She should not be where she is today when she is yet to have a fair trial.”

He also questions why Darlie's husband was never investigated, and Susanna writes in her Mail column: "Darlie’s appeal lawyer says that in a signed affidavit, Darin admitted to one insurance scam as well as a plot for a staged home robbery so he could collect a claim.

I’m at peace with myself. I didn’t do this. I did not murder my children, I did not attack myself. If they choose to kill me, that’s my innocent blood that will be on their hands.

"Darlie told us she is concerned about some of the people she has since learned he was mixing with. We approached Darin to do an interview for the programme but he declined to be interviewed."

Darlie goes on to reveal she divorced Darin in 2011 and later began a relationship with another man, incidentally called Darrin, who began writing to her in prison.

Darrin meets Susanna on camera as he chooses a flashy engagement ring for his partner – insisting their love is real – but the documentary later reveals it didn't last.

Darlie ultimately says: "I’m at peace with myself. I didn’t do this. I did not murder my children, I did not attack myself. If they choose to kill me, that’s my innocent blood that will be on their hands.”

There remain no eye witnesses, no confession and no motive, and Darlie maintains her innocence.

Death Row's Women With Susanna Reid airs on ITV at 9pm on Thursday.

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