Defending Darlie

Page 13 of 17

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.

As for the errant bloody sock, Cron said he thinks Darin put it down the alley in an attempt to cover for his wife, and the boys' blood came from wiping a portion of the knife. But none of Devon's blood was ever found on the knife.

Asked if it were unusual that only blood and clothing fibers from Damon and Darlie were found on the knife, Cron said Devon wasn't wearing a shirt and his blood might have been wiped off during the subsequent attacks. But Devon was wearing a shirt; the paramedics had removed it. And Devon's wounds were the deepest, by more than an inch, so how would blood from the deepest part of his cuts have been wiped off the knife during a subsequent attack? Pardo suspects that two knives were used, and thus there were two assailants. He's retained a forensic pathologist to investigate whether he can tell from pictures of the wounds and the autopsies whether the cuts were made from two separate knives.

Charles Linch, a trace-materials analyst with the Southwest Institute for Forensic Science, supported Cron's contention that the scene was staged. He maintained that the screen had been cut from the outside with a bread knife from the kitchen. He based this claim on a tiny amount of fiberglass and rubber debris that he found on the knife. It was such a tiny amount, there was none left over for defense to do their own testing.

Cron admits this evidence was not conclusive. But it helped sway the jury. It had to be a setup, one juror said after the trial, because an intruder wouldn't use his knife to cut the screen, then use one from the house in the attacks.

Harrell has a possible answer for this. "Maybe they wanted to keep their own knife free of incriminating evidence," he says, further explaining why the intruder would leave the bloody knife behind. But all of this is beside the point. It is clear to him that the jury tried to solve the case, and that wasn't their job.

"If you have questions, you have doubt, and you're supposed to acquit."

Like many people, Pardo is convinced that what persuaded the jury to convict was the televised footage of the party the Routiers held at the Rockwall graveyard eight days after the murder to honor what would have been Devon's seventh birthday. The camera captured Darlie joyously squirting Silly String on the grave, which was covered with toys and balloons, and hugging her guests.

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Ann Zimmerman