The prosecution said that Darlie murdered her children for money, but the funeral costs exceeded the life insurance proceeds. Darlie and Darin’s marriage was solid, she doted on the boys, and had no motive to kill her children.
The prosecution did not contend that Darlie killed her sons for the insurance money. Although finances were certainly a factor, attributing a purely monetary motive is too simplistic a way to look at the murders of Devon and Damon. The State did, however, present considerable evidence that Darlie Routier had been experiencing a multitude of stressors in the months leading up to June 6, 1996. Some of these stressors are detailed below.
Anxiety & Depression
Family and friends downplayed Darlie’s depression, describing it as lasting two or three days, at which time she snapped out of it and was fine. They want to give the impression that this was nothing more than a touch of postpartum depression. But the truth is that Darlie’s emotional problems began even before Drake was born in October 1995, as shown in excerpts from her journal:
September 7, 1995
Devon and Damon are growing so fast, and I see myself getting older each day. I am now seven months pregnant and we’re bringing Drake Routier into the world…I have had two dreams about death in the past several months. Both times I was hesitant to go, but when I did it was such a wonderful feeling, one that you cannot describe and both times I felt I was going to be with the Lord…
October 1, 1995
I really love Darin with all my heart, but sometimes I feel like I’m missing something. I’m sure I have everything every woman could ever wish for. Maybe it’s the excitement, things I used to do when I was younger, the thrill of not knowing, just doing whatever came up. I know I have a lot of responsibilities, but a little craziness once in a while sure wouldn’t hurt. I want to grow old with Darin, but I don’t want to feel as though part of me has to die to do it. I am young and I want to feel it.
(Darlie Routier, Sec. 4808-4812)
Six months after Drake was born, things went from bad to worse. On May 3, 1996, one month before the murders, Darlie wrote a suicide letter to her children:
May 3 1996
I hope that one day you will forgive me for what I am about to do. My life has been such a hard fight for a long time, and I just cannot find the strength to keep fighting anymore. I love you three more than anything else in this world…I don’t want you to see a miserable person every time you look at me. Your dad loves you all very much and I know in my heart he will take care of my babies. Please do not hate me or think in any way that this is your fault. It’s just that I…”
(Darlie Routier, Sec. 4910-4911)
At trial, Darlie and Darin brushed off this incident as insignificant. They claimed it was a non-event, because she didn’t actually take the pills (very strange reasoning, but consistent with their need to minimize Darlie’s problems).
Barbara Jovell, a very close friend for ten years who also worked in Darin’s circuit board business, testified for the prosecution.
Shook: Did she tell you why she was about to commit suicide?
Jovell: Because things were getting to her. Sometimes she feels like everybody expected too much of her, and the children were sometimes too much. And she just feels like she wants to end it all. Darlie was nervous and depressed and she fought with Darin a lot.
Darlie told Barbara she had all the pills out of the wrappers and was writing a suicide note when Darin walked in. She also told Barbara that if anything happened between her and Darin, that Darin’s mother, Sarilda, might take the children away from her. Barbara urged Darlie to get help, and expressed her concern to Darin, telling him “to get help for Darlie, go see a doctor or counselor because something bad will happen.” Neither Darlie nor Darin heeded her advice.
(Barbara Jovell, Sec. 2511, 2544, 2549 and 2553)
I will tell you up front that, in my opinion, Barbara Jovell was a credible witness. Being of Polish descent, her English left something to be desired, but she clearly loved Darlie and showed great concern for her well-being. In fact, on cross- examination she described Darlie as a loving mother and a giving, generous friend.
Mosty: The kids were well cared for?
Jovell: Yes, they were.
Mosty: They were well dressed?
Jovell: Yes, they were. They were happy kids. Many times she didn’t really mind having other children at the house. Darlie loves children. She was kind to all the children.
Mosty: Was Darin also active with the children?
Jovell: More or less. Darlie had to make him spend time with them.
In an attempt to discredit Jovell, Mosty referred to her own past struggles with depression, but he made no headway.
Mosty: That was one of the reasons you wanted to give Darlie advice because you had attempted suicide after you had had a child?
Jovell: That is what frightened me, her trying to commit suicide and the way she was acting. She was depressed and she was angry. She would come to the shop really angry, throwing things at Darin. I just wanted to help–Darlie wasn’t herself.
(Barbara Jovell, Sec. 2594, 2606, 2684)
Shortly after the murders, Darin was interviewed by CPS worker Jamie Johnson. The severity of Darlie’s emotional state is revealed, curiously enough, in Darin’s denials at trial of virtually everything he had told Ms. Johnson.
Davis: Do you remember telling Jamie Johnson that your wife was depressed, tired, and not herself?
Darin: Just for 2 or 3 days.
Davis: Did you tell her that your wife said, “I’m sick of everything. I’m having a hard time getting the house cleaned”?
Darin: I don’t know.
Davis: Did you tell her that your wife wanted everything perfect in that house, that it was an obsession? “She will clean and clean, but the kids would be right behind her making bigger messes”?
Darin: No sir.
Davis: Did you tell Jamie Johnson, “There was no time for me and mommy to be sexy or run around the house naked”?
Darin: No, she is lying.
Davis: When you came home on May 3rd and found your wife writing a suicide note, did you testify that you just had a good cry with her, and you woke up the next day and everything was fine?
Darin: Yes sir.
Davis: Do you remember telling Jamie Johnson, “A light went on in my head saying Darlie needs help”?
Darin: No sir. Jamie Johnson is a liar.
(Darin Routier, Sec. 4341-4352)
Darlie downplayed her emotional problems in a similar fashion.
Mulder: In the first part of May 1996 were you feeling blues-y, or were you feeling depression or how were you feeling?
Darlie: I was feeling somewhat–I would say moody. I had been having a few days that were really rough…
(Darlie Routier, Sec. 4805)
There it is again: “a few days.” And yet this contradicts her May 3rd suicide note where she wrote “my life has been such a hard fight for a long time.” No matter how you slice and dice it, two or three days is not a long time.
Like many women, Darlie had gained weight while pregnant with Drake, and was taking the diet pills Fastin and Ponmidin. An extra 10-15 pounds can be upsetting, but may have hit Darlie and Darin particularly hard. By all accounts, they took great pride in her appearance, especially her sexual attraction. On the 1998 Leeza Gibbons show, Darin gushed about “her beautiful body and 36 triple-D breasts, and how people would turn their heads to look at her. It’s like people are mesmerized by her.” Nothing wrong with that, really, except for the fact that they denied any concern whatsoever with her weight gain. And it does not ring true.
Davis: Did you tell Jamie Johnson that Darlie went from a size 4 to a size 8?
Darin: Well, I don’t believe so.
Davis: As a result of the weight gain, did you tell Jamie that she went into postpartum depression that was aggravated by her weight?
Darin: No sir.
(Darin Routier, Sec. 4347-4349)
Shook: Did she talk to you about the weight she had gained?
Jovell: Yes, it bothered her very much.
Shook: What did you tell her about that?
Jovell: Oh, that she makes me sick, such a beautiful young woman, with three children. To me she looked beautiful. And I said she was just giving herself a complex and that would make her sick.
(Barbara Jovell, Sec. 2554)
Darin grossed over $264,000 in 1995, but the business slowed down considerably at the end of 1995 and continued to decline in 1996. By June, the Routiers were two months behind on their mortgage payments and could not make the minimum payment on a $12,000 credit card debt. They also owed $10,000 in back taxes, and Darin had not paid the monthly rent for his office space.
Mosty: Now you were describing the business in December of ’95 and January of ’96?
Jovell: Yes, we were slow, and the money wasn’t coming in. Darlie would come into the shop and check the books. There was no money because Darin was talking to me about it, saying that it’s upsetting Darlie really bad. When he gives me my paycheck he says, “Well, you’re the only one getting paid now, because I’m not.”
Darlie herself told Barbara that “her weight gain was bothering her a lot and she was worried about the bills and how slow the business was. She said the children sometimes were too much.”
(Barbara Jovell, Sec. 2618-2619, 2553)
Despite their dire financial situation, the family was planning a two-week trip to Pennsylvania, and Darlie was looking forward to a July vacation to Cancun with her friend, Mercedes Adams. To cover the cost, Darin applied for a $5,000 loan from Bank One. Two days before the murders, he was turned down due to (1) excessive obligations in relation to income (2) an excessive amount owed on revolving accounts (3) too many new accounts and (4) delinquent past or present credit obligations with others.
(Okie Williams, Sec. 2121, 2129)
Powder Keg Ignites
We may never know exactly what occurred between Darlie and Darin the evening of June 5, 1996, but a storm was surely brewing. Barbara Jovell testified that when she arrived at the Routiers at 5:15 PM, Darlie was very upset, pacing back and forth between the kitchen and family room. The tension was so palpable that Barbara didn’t stay long. On the stand, both Darlie and Darin denied any disagreements or argument later on that night. According to them, they talked about the usual – the business, their upcoming trips, what to do with the 28-foot boat they’d purchased. Just a normal, upbeat discussion.
Darlie: There wasn’t an argument, that’s all been taken out of context. There was not an argument about the boat. There was not an argument about the car. What I was upset about was that a man had called me earlier, and he was very rude and had cussed me out over the phone. My husband’s car was at his shop, and he wanted my husband to come and pick it up, and he was very rude to me, and I was upset.
Mulder: All right. But it was just a normal discussion between you and your husband?
Darlie: Yes sir.
(Darlie Routier, Sec. 4865-4866)
Her testimony, however, is contradicted by what she told Detective Patterson the morning after the murders.
Huff: What did she tell you?
Patterson: She said they’d had an argument earlier in the evening…about their finances…
(Jimmy Patterson, Sec. 245)
Their June 8, 1996 sworn statements also tell a very different story. Darlie wrote, “Darin and I talked about a few problems we were having with the car and the boat and had a few words between us. Since I had the baby I have been having some depression.” Darin wrote, “We talked about the business, bills, and how Darlie was having a hard time taking care of the babies (all) today.”
Darin and Darlie’s statements were corroborated by psychiatrist Dr. Lisa Clayton, a surprising turn of events, considering that Dr. Clayton testified for the defense. Her first interview with Darlie occurred on June 20th, two days after her arrest. At that point, Darlie and Darin hadn’t gotten their stories together about what had transpired between them the evening of June 5th. The information Darlie gave to Dr. Clayton during that June 20th meeting would come back to haunt her six months later.
Shook: And did she tell you that they had been fighting that Wednesday night?
Shook: What were they fighting about?
Clayton: She was upset because his Jaguar had been breaking down all the time, and I guess what culminated it was that he had left it somewhere, and the man had called her and kind of been rude to her, about having Darin come get the Jaguar. So she was aggravated because he didn’t take care of the Jaguar and she was having to deal with this man calling her up and being rude, while she had her kids and, you know, neighborhood kids and everybody in and out of the house. Also, she was upset because Darin was taking her Pathfinder, and that was leaving her and the kids stranded. Also they had a boat…something needed to be done because here they had this car that wasn’t working too well, that was going to cost them money to fix, and here they had this boat that was not working that was going to cost them money to fix, and both of these were kind of Darin’s deal, and she wanted him to make a decision and get something done. You know, they argued back and forth, they argued…
(Dr. Lisa Clayton, Sec. 4722-4723)
Dr. Phillip Resnick, a leading expert on filicide, has identified five main circumstances in which parents kill their children. One of those circumstances, spousal revenge, is the one which most closely fits Darlie’s motivation. This is revenge against a spouse for infidelity or other perceived failing. There is no question that Darlie was experiencing extreme stress raising three little boys, combined with severe financial problems. Her life was deviating wildly from the script she had written in her own mind of how she imagined her life would be.
It is not known why women kill their children rather than their mates in a spousal revenge, but if Darlie felt that Darin was shirking his responsibilities (helping with the kids, the upkeep of the house, bringing home the bacon), killing his flesh and blood would be the ultimate payback. It also provides a partial explanation for why Darin stood by Darlie, despite knowing that she murdered their sons. Did he feel that it was his fault, that he drove her to it? Or perhaps the argument that night escalated into a threat of separation/divorce, as Darin stated in his 2002 affidavit. If he threatened to take the boys away from her, she may have retaliated with the all too-common response: if I can’t have them, neither will you.
Darlie isn’t talking, so we can only speculate as to why she stabbed Devon and Damon to death that night. The prosecution, of course, never has to prove motive, because it is not an element of the crime, i.e., it is not a fact that must be proven to convict a defendant. The State had the facts required by law, and they proved those facts beyond a reasonable doubt. When all is said and done, one fundamental truth remains: If the prosecution proved that Darlie committed these murders – and they did – then they don’t have to prove she’s the kind of person who could have committed these murders.