Defending Darlie

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The prosecution accused her of later embellishing details she had left out of her voluntary statement in order to counteract incriminating evidence. For example, her written statement says only that she put a towel on Damon's back. After the arrest warrant points out that a copious amount of blood found at the sink led the crime-scene investigator to believe she slit her throat there, Darlie started saying that she also had fetched wet towels for Darin, who was aiding Devon.

Investigator Lloyd Harrell, who has become an outspoken advocate for Darlie, says the state held her to an unfair standard of truth. "They insisted she give a voluntary statement before she goes to the viewing of her children. She tells them she won't have enough time to get it all in, then they hold it against her because she says it is incomplete."

The state overlooks its own inconsistencies. In a dramatic moment in the trial, a blood-splatter expert shows how spots of the boys' blood came to be on the back of Darlie's nightshirt. With a knife in his hand, the expert repeatedly makes stabbing motions, bringing the knife high over his head and coming down on an imaginary child. Yet the two dime-sized drops of the boys' blood overlap drops of Darlie's blood on the nightshirt, apparently contradicting the state's theory that Darlie cut herself only after returning from depositing the sock down the alley, after the boys were stabbed.

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.

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Ann Zimmerman