Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Darlie Routier: Doting Mother/Deadly Mother

the Defense

Routier, flanked by guards, enters court
Routier, flanked by guards, enters court

By the time the defense opened its arguments, the case looked unsalvageable for its client. But, Doug Mulder and his team did the best with what they had to contradict and counteract the gallows material planted by Prosecutor Greg Davis.

Leading the defense's string of witnesses were friends, neighbors and relatives who had known Darlie for years and who vouched for her character. Reverend David Rogers, who officiated at the funeral, thought Darlie was "grieving appropriately." Friend Cara Byford spoke of Darlie's kindness and of how Darlie came to her after the murders for consolation since Cara had lost a four-month-old boy years previously. Next-door neighbor Karen Neal saw Darlie's grief as real and not at all artificial as the prosecution tried to paint.

Husband Darin Routier's presence in the witness box brought attention as he admitted to family problems due to financial woes, but attested that his wife was truly devastated by their boys' deaths. He choked back tears when he recalled the morning of the murder and his administration of CPR to Damon. "Darlie was running back and forth getting wet towels, going 'Oh my God! Oh, my God, he's dead!' I blew two or three times. She was over him trying to hold the gaps in his chest together. I knew he was dead in three minutes. I screamed at Officer Waddell, and Darlie tried to get him to go to the garage. All three of us were in shock."

A major impact in the prosecution's case had been the "hesitation" wounds on Darlie's throat. But Bexar County's medical examiner Dr. Vincent DiMaio, a professor of forensic pathology, tried to lay doubt that the woman's wounds were self-inflicted and "surface". Her throat slash, he claimed, had come within two millimeters of the carotid artery. As well, he diagnosed bruises on her arms as mass trauma coming from a blunt instrument and not self-given.

Since the prosecution had made much of Darlie's contradictory testimony before and after her arrest, attorney Mulder needed a reliable witness to express, in medical terms, how a suspect, having faced psychological trauma, often lapses in and out of memory. He found that witness in forensic psychologist Dr. Lisa Clayton. The expert had done much work on the homicidal mind.

Dr. Clayton had interviewed Darlie and believed her to be innocent, stating that she showed the typical blackout and distorted-memory symptoms of people who lived through a trauma and were forced to give a clear description of their encounter.

The final witness for the defense on January 29 was a surprise and, as it turned out for the defense itself a bad move: the accused, Darlie Lynn Routier. Mulder had tried to talk his client out of appearing, insisting that she would pit herself against cross-examination by a ruthless prosecution team that could make mincemeat out of anything she said. But, Darlie persisted.

The moment started off well as Mulder guided her through her life story, her dedicated motherhood to three children, her domestic ups and downs; he had her skillfully read excerpts from her diary that penetrated the shell of what the prosecution called a wicked woman to display a thoughtful, sometimes deep, person who recognized and cherished life's values. She explained that the Silly String used at the graveside during Devon's posthumous birthday party was brought by her younger sister, Dana, not her, as a symbol of the fun the little boys would have liked had they been alive. She remembered the night of the murder, emphasizing that if her story changed slightly it was because she simply could not remember things clearly. The shock had left them jumbled.

But, when the defense stepped aside, the prosecution wilted her in the face of her own statements; they badgered and barked and condemned her. They wouldn't accept amnesia, they wouldn't accept alibi, they wouldn't accept a word she told them and drove into her with an inquisition. They asked about why she told one policeman one thing and something else to another; they asked why her dog didn't bark when the intruder entered the house, they asked why the kitchen sink was cleansed of its blood; they asked why she lied, lied, lied and when they left her alone, she was a sobbing, wretched woman for the jury to see.

After hours of deliberation, the jury on February 1 found Darlie Lynn Routier guilty of the murder of her son Damon Christian.

Three days later, a somber Judge Tolle peered down from his bench to the white-faced Darlie before him, and read her the court's decided penalty. It was death.

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