Longform

The Cult of Darlie

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As for Brown, Cooper calls him a "goofy fuck." Yet he says there is some validity to his book, which Cooper has skimmed. "I've been living with this stuff for a long time, so it is hard for me to divine what's new and what isn't, but there was nothing in it that was surprising to me. Many of the arguments and counter-arguments are part of the trial. His evaluation of the case is better than the new evidence issues. And he needed a good editor. Hell, he could have used a half-assed editor."

Cooper has purposely kept Brown at arm's length. "The family values him," he says. "He's not wishy-washy about anything. But he's jumped the gun on about a million things. I told him to his face that it is awfully cruel to tell the family that you know who the killer is, and you just need one more piece of evidence, and then it doesn't pan out. Lawyers, the professionals, don't go to their clients and say they have the key to jail unless they can deliver it."

One piece of new evidence Brown claims to have uncovered is boot prints around the bodies of both boys, which he says bolsters the intruder theory. A crime-scene analyst testified at trial that he found boot prints in the den and matched them to boots worn by a paramedic. Brown counters that his investigation showed that all the paramedics were wearing sneakers, and the shoe prints he found--by enlarging the crime-scene photos--are definitely from boots.

Cooper isn't particularly impressed. "He's not a forensics guy," he says. "This is all fanciful. But if we get a new trial, will I look at it again with a forensics expert? You bet. There were a lot of stones left unturned in this case."

Like what?
"I'm not telling you," Cooper snaps. "I would like some of this to be a surprise. I'll tell you this: From my observation, the crime scene was a total mess, and it's unclear to me what is real and what isn't."

People close to the case claim new fingerprint evidence will be one of the surprises in the appeal. In addition, the original defense lawyers had sent some of the evidence to be tested by a lab in Minnesota, but the defense never got it back because it ran out of money. With funds from Pardo, the test results have been obtained and reportedly are promising.

Brown says he's saving his "best evidence" for a second book. "I have a message to get out," he says. "I'm trying to convince as many people as I can that Darlie didn't do this, and neither did Darin. Judges are sensitive to public opinion."

I'm not sure I buy his reasoning. Nor am I sure that appearing on the Leeza show, or Extra or Inside Edition, accomplishes anything except raising Brown's profile and endearing him to Darlie and her family. They are, no doubt, frustrated by how slow the appeals process is, and they may have confused having some oddball plead their case on television with making real progress. (This same oddball, by the way, says he's retained all the movie rights to the story.)

About the only thing I am sure of when it comes to Darlie Routier is that the case will get stranger before it is ever resolved.

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Ann Zimmerman

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