Defending Darlie

Wealthy Waco businessman Brian Pardo spends his time and money helping death-row inmates he believes are innocent. His efforts on behalf of Darlie Routier have raised suspicions about her husband--and about Pardo's motives.

The police found it patently incredible that Darlie didn't remember the face of the man who attacked her or the details of the struggle that ensued and that she claimed to have slept through her own attack and those on the children. At trial, psychiatrist Lisa Clayton said Darlie was suffering "psychic numbing" and "traumatic amnesia," conditions that prevented her from remembering details of what happened.

"I think that for anyone in that situation, there may be some normal discrepancies," she testified.

Prosecutor Toby Shook did not have any expert of his own to rebut Clayton's testimony. Instead, he sarcastically dismissed the whole notion by labeling it "selective amnesia" and calling it a "convenient defense."

Pardo sees it otherwise. He finds it inconceivable that someone would stage a fairly elaborate murder and crime scene, then fail to make up a few measly details about what the intruder looked like and how the killings occurred.

At 6:30 on the morning of the attacks, James Cron, a freelance crime-scene analyst hired by the Rowlett police, came to inspect the Routier home. Within 30 minutes, he told police officers there had been no intruder, the crime scene had been staged, and very little of what Darlie had told the police was supported by evidence at the scene. Not enough blood on the couch where Darlie said she was attacked, he said. No splattered blood in the den, which you would expect from a fight. Not enough toppled furniture.

But Cron made his assessment before knowing that a bloody sock was found in the alley, or that a pillow with copious amounts of Darlie's blood had been found near the couch, and after paramedics put the heavy glass top of the coffee table back on its pedestal.

Even so, once Cron was made aware of these facts, he didn't change his opinion. In fact, over the next six hours that he spent analyzing the Routier crime scene, what he discovered only strengthened what he originally suspected.

Small details just didn't add up. The layer of dust on the sill below the garage window--through which the intruder supposedly entered and exited through a cut screen--had not been disturbed. Neither had the mulch in the beds around the patio. The backyard fence gate was closed, which is not something a fleeing intruder would take the time to do, especially with this gate, which had a tendency to stick. And the fence showed no scuff marks from someone climbing over it.

Cron admits that an intruder wouldn't necessarily have had to leave scuff marks. And the prosecution inadvertently dashed the windowsill theory when a police officer, who twice climbed through a mock-up of the window at trial, never touched the sill. That same officer, however, happened to touch the window ledge in the exact spot where Cron recovered the only identifiable prints in the house. They didn't match Darlie, Darin, or their immediate family. Cron couldn't compare them with Damon's or Devon's prints, though, because the morgue had forgotten to fingerprint them.

Cron found that the blood patterns didn't match Darlie's story. The intruder left no traces of blood on his exit trail along the window or on the white privacy fence. There aren't any of Darlie's bloody footprints along the path she said she took while following the intruder, and there's none of her blood in the utility room, as Cron would have expected. And he found no splatter marks indicating the dropped knife she said she found on the utility-room floor.

Harrell thinks Cron has based these observations on unfounded assumptions. The intruder, he says, didn't necessarily have to have blood all over him. "Knife wounds tend to bleed internally first, then seep to the surface," he says. "They don't spurt like they do in the movies, unless certain arteries are hit."

Concerning the lack of Darlie's bloody footprints headed toward the utility room, Harrell says he suspects Darlie wasn't bleeding onto the floor yet that soon after getting up off the couch. He believes the blood saturated her nightshirt first, then eventually dripped to the floor. And he notes that Darlie never wrote that she found the knife on the utility-room floor.

Cron came to the conclusion that Darlie slit her throat and injured her shoulder and arm at the kitchen sink, because there are puddles of blood in front of the sink, smeared blood on the counter in front of it, and evidence that blood had been washed from the sink. Harrell believes the blood in and around the sink was more likely to have come from Darlie fetching dishtowels for her wounds and for the children.

Both Darlie and Darin confirmed hearing glass shattering shortly before Darlie started screaming. Darlie claimed the intruder had knocked a wineglass from the wine rack in the kitchen as he fled. The shards of glass Cron found on the kitchen floor proved to him that this was part of the staging, because the pieces had fallen on top of Darlie's bloody footprint.

Couldn't all the police and trace experts who came traipsing through before he arrived have kicked it there? Sure, Cron says, if it were just one piece, but he says the crime-scene pictures show many shards on the footprint. In fact, the prosecution submitted only one picture into evidence, and it shows a single piece of glass that is barely touching the edge of a footprint.

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