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S3 / EP29: Darlie Routier

“Somebody came in, they broke in and just stabbed me and my children!”


On June 6, 1996, Darlie Routier and her two sons, Devon and Damon, were attacked by an unknown intruder in the middle of the night. Darlie's husband Darin and her infant son Drake were asleep upstairs at the time, and were unharmed.


An investigation into the brutal attack revealed disturbing evidence that questioned Darlie’s account of the events of that night.


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Transcribed Episode / S3 EP29: Darlie Routier


[Host]


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Motherhood can be amazing and rewarding. Watching your children take their first steps, rooting for them in little league, and simply being a source of love and security as they grow up and learn to navigate this crazy world. Just pull up social media and look up hashtag “joysofmotherhood” and you’ll be inundated with thousands of accounts displaying those happy moments of being a mother.


But what social media doesn’t show as often, is that motherhood can also be filled with uncertainty, anxiety and frustration. It can make you feel inadequate and overwhelmed, and make you feel pressured to be the perfect parent. And for some, parenthood is a constant reminder of a lifestyle and a freedom that they no longer have - and it’s those thoughts that can lead to feelings of resentment and regret.


This episode is about a case that’s actually quite controversial because it involves the murder of two children, and has two very distinctive and zealous camps in regards to the female suspect of the crime: the one camp of “she’s 100% innocent” and the other camp of “she’s definitely guilty.” Maybe by the end of this episode you’ll have your beliefs confirmed, or maybe you’ll have a few reasons to doubt them.


The year was 1988. Darlie Lynn Peck was 18 when she fell in love with and married Darin Routier and they began their life together. Over the next few years they would have three boys, Devon, Damon and Drake. Darlie was a stay at home mom and Darin ran his own business manufacturing circuit boards. The business was successful with Darin bringing in about $260,000 a year, and they were able to build their own house in Rowlett Texas, a suburb of Dallas, in an upper middle class neighborhood.


Darlie was described by friends as a loving, caring mother and she was sweet and fun to be around. The Routier house was the neighborhood hang - Darlie always made sure to have snacks for the neighborhood kids.


For all intents and purposes, the Routiers were living the American dream and seemed to be, at least on the outside, a very normal, happy family.


Both Darin and Darlie enjoyed their luxuries, and didn’t hesitate to spend money. Darin got a loan for a cabin cruiser with the idea to start a romantic tour business on Lake Ray Hubbard. Darlie had him making cages so she could start raising and selling Persian cats.


The couple had five cats themselves and a dog, a Pomeranian named Domino. Darlie also enjoyed pampering herself and spending money on her appearance, getting her bleached blonde hair done regularly and got breast implants. They were spending their money as fast as they could make it, started to amass some debt, and began to fall back on some of their bills. After the birth of their third child, Drake, Darlie began to suffer from post-partum depression, but according to friends and family, it would only last in short spurts, maybe two to three days tops and then she would snap out of it and be fine. But the intrusive, depressive thoughts that she was having were present even before she gave birth to Drake.


Darlie kept a diary and in it she would document her struggles. In 1995 she wrote about seeing herself getting older each day and having dreams about death. She wrote that although she loved her husband she had feelings that she might be missing something, things that she used to do when she was younger. She jotted down that she now had a lot of responsibilities, but that a little uncertainty or craziness in her life wouldn’t be that bad. She wrote that she wanted to grow old with Darin but didn’t want to feel as if part of her had to die to do it.


Then on May 3 1996, she jotted down a suicide letter to her children:


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…”


Fast forward about a month to June 6, 1996. It’s now been eight years after the couple married….Darin was 28, Darlie was 26, Devon was 6, Damon was 5, and baby Drake was now seven months old.


It was nearing bedtime and Darlie and her two oldest boys decided to sleep downstairs in the living room; Darlie slept on the couch and the boys slept on the floor. Baby Drake slept in a crib upstairs in the primary bedroom with Darin. This arrangement wasn’t that strange, as Darlie was a light sleeper and the baby tended to keep her up at night.


While watching tv, Darlie fell asleep. Then just before 2:30am, she felt Damon pushing on her right shoulder and heard him faintly talking. She woke up and was shocked to see a strange man with a baseball cap standing directly over her.


According to Darlie’s recount of the incident, the man ran, she got up from the couch and chased him, briefly physically fought with him near the bar in her kitchen, and the man then ran towards their utility room, dropped a knife on the way, then ran into the garage.


Darlie continued to pursue the intruder as she turned the light on in the kitchen and headed towards the utility room.


When she got to the utility room she saw the knife on the floor and picked it up - then realized she was covered in blood and had been stabbed. She put the knife on the kitchen counter and ran back to the living room where she saw a horrific scene.


Devon and Damon were covered in blood. She ran over to them and she began to scream.


Darin who’d been asleep upstairs, was woken up by the sound of breaking glass and Darlie screaming. Drake was asleep in his bassinet at the foot of the bed and Domino was asleep on a pillow on the floor. Darin got up, quickly put on a pair of jeans, grabbed his glasses and ran downstairs, thinking maybe one of the boys had crashed through a glass top table. As he made it to the bottom of the stairs and headed towards the family room he saw blood everywhere - blood all over the floor, blood on the carpet and blood on the couch, and instinctively ran to check on the kids.


He saw Devon, his oldest, first. He ran over to him and began performing CPR, the boys blood gushed out of his body everytime Darin would do compressions. Damon was across the room, lying on his stomach, not moving or responding to his father calling for him. While this was going on, Darlie was calling 911.


Now everyone handles emergencies differently and everyone acts differently when they’re panicked or stressed. Take a listen to the call and think about what has just happened - Darlie and her sons have been attacked in the middle of the night, her two sons are lying on the floor essentially bleeding to death and blood is everywhere, all over the room, all over her boys, all over her - think about what she says and how much detail and information she provides to the dispatcher about what had just happened:


(Video)


In case you couldn’t make out what was being said, Darlie told the operator that:


“They just stabbed me and my children.

Oh my god, my babies are dying.

Devon is already dead, I don’t even know who did this. I don’t even know who did this Darin? Who would do this? Oh my god who would do this? Darin, I don’t know who it was, we gotta find out who it was.

Somebody came in while we were sleeping - some man came in and stabbed my babies, stabbed me, I woke up, I was fighting, He ran out through the garage, threw the knife down, my babies are dying their dead.”


The operator asked her, “how many little boys” and Darlie responded “there’s two of em, there’s two of em, oh my god, who would do this?”

She pressed the operator for when the ambulance would be there - and asks again“who would do this?”


Darlie said, “someone killed our babies. They’re over there and they ran out the garage, I was sleeping.”


She asked the operator two times “why would they do this?”


She also told the operator that “they left a knife.” The operator said not to touch anything to which Darlie responded that she’d already touched it and she’d picked it up, and then said, “We could’ve gotten the prints maybe.”


In the middle of this chaotic frantic call to 911, Darlie, not the operator, brings up the fact there was a knife left by the intruder, admits to picking up the knife and wondered if they could get prints off of it? Yes those are logical steps during an investigation of a crime scene, but is that something you would think about with your children just a few feet away from you covered in blood and dying - whether or not someone had left fingerprints?


The 911 call lasted 5 minutes and 44 seconds and Officer David Waddell was the first to arrive at the house while she was still on the phone with the dispatcher.


When Officer Waddell began to approach the house, Darin, wearing only jeans - no shirt and no shoes - ran out of the front door yelling to Waddell that someone had stabbed his boys and they were dying.


The two men then went into the house, and as he walked through the front entrance Waddell could see blood all over the floor. He did his best to avoid stepping in it and made his way down the entryway towards the living room.


Daren went across the living room over to one of the boys on the floor and Darlie was standing in the hallway holding a towel to her neck with one hand - apparently she had been injured on her neck - and holding a phone in the other. Darlie had on a light colored tee shirt, with no pants or shoes.


Waddell recalled that when he asked Darlie about what had happened, she couldn’t give him a description of the attacker, but said that he was still in the garage. Thinking the family could still be in danger, Waddell went on high alert and placed himself in between the family and the garage while waiting for backup.


Waddell told Darlie to go over and administer first aid to Damon by applying pressure with a towel to his wounds to try to stop the bleeding. According to Waddell, Darin knelt down next to Devon and began - what looked like - either applying pressure to his wounds or doing CPR. When Waddell went over to see what Darin was doing, he said whatever he was doing wasn't doing any good, that he was basically just blowing air through his open wounds.


In the meantime Darlie hadn’t moved and was still standing there watching the scene in front of her. Instead of putting towels on Damon’s wounds, she reminded Waddell that the attacker was still in the garage. Waddell didn’t help the boy himself because he wasn’t sure if there was someone still in the garage - so he walked over to the kitchen and tried to peek through an open door into the garage to see if he could see anyone. He didn’t see anyone and didn’t want to go any further into the garage and leave the family alone with an attacker still possibly in the house, so he went back to the living room.


Darin was still over with Devon, but Darlie was still in the same spot, not attending to Damon, and she was yelling for help - Waddell really wasn’t sure if she was still on the phone or not.


The officer asked her again if she got a description of the attacker and she said she didn’t know if he was black or white, but he was wearing a black shirt, dark pants and a baseball cap. She told him she’d gotten into a fight with somebody that broke into her house. She said she fought with him at the end of the bar in their kitchen - didn’t describe what kind of fight it was - and that he ran across the kitchen into the utility room and out through the garage.


Waddell and Darlie then walked back over to Damon, his eyes were opened, he was on his stomach with his head turned, looking up at both of them making gasping noises. Waddell told Darlie AGAIN, to get some towels for his wounds. The officer described Darlie as very alert at this point, didn’t seem to be in shock at all.


Instead of helping put towels on Damon’s wounds, she retold the story of the intruder to the officer, saying that she chased him across the kitchen, that he dropped the knife by the utility room, that she had picked up the knife and brought it back and set it on the counter, and told him that she thought she had messed up the fingerprints.


A few minutes went by and the second officer arrived, Sergeant Matthew Walling. Walling was briefed on the situation and the two walked through the kitchen towards the garage. On the way there, they passed a wine wrack in the kitchen and they noticed a broken wine glass on the floor - this glass apparently would later explain the “glass breaking” noise that Darin had heard. The two stepped over the glass and entered the utility room.


In the utility room there was a door that entered into the garage - it was shut and it didn’t look like there was any damage to the door. They opened the door and searched the garage - nothing there. Sergeant Walling noticed that a screen inside of an open window in the garage has been cut. The garage had several windows inside of it that led out to the backyard.


The officers went back inside the house and Darlie was still standing in the living room, and there was still no towel on Damon’s back.


Fire Department personnel arrived and immediately began to assess the situation. They realized Damon was still alive and took him out of the house into the EMT vehicle for transport to the hospital, and then moved on to Devon. After assessing Devon, they told the officers there was nothing more they could do, that he had passed.


During this time, with the EMT’s taking Damon out of the house and assessing Devon, neither Darlie or her husband were asking what was going on with the boys, where they were going to take their son, or asking questions about their condition.


When the officers checked the remainder of the house, they discovered Drake upstairs, unharmed, in his crib - they thought this was odd since neither Darin or Darlie had mentioned anything about a baby being in the house.


The officers left the baby in the crib and went back downstairs and saw a neighbor standing in the doorway of the house. Darin had explained to the officers earlier that there was a nurse that lived across the street, that maybe she could help. The officers explained to her one of the children had already been put in an ambulance and that they didn’t need her assistance.


At this time, Darlie’s wounds were being attended to on the front porch, and according to paramedics didn’t seem life threatening. The paramedics left the scene at around 2:40am and transported both Damon and Darlie to the hospital. Damon passed away en route to the hospital.


When Darlie arrived at the hospital, she was screaming and hysterical. One of the nurses who testified at trial said she kept asking “why would someone kill her boys” and “how could anyone do this to my children?”


Darlie wounds were assessed: she suffered a stab wound to her throat (about a 9 cm or 3.5 inch laceration) which came within two millimeters of her carotid artery and a cut to her right arm that was about an inch to inch a half long that went to the bone. There was also extensive bruising to both the insides of her right and left arms.


Darlie again brought up the issue with the knife. She mentioned the attacker dropping the knife, and that she had picked it up and was worried she had “obscured the attacker’s prints.” She mentioned this to at least two nurses.


Another nurse noted that Darlie didn’t seem to show much emotion, but yet a few other doctors and nurses would describe Darlie as being tearful, frightened or upset while she was being treated.


The treating physicians at the hospital would tell police that her wounds may have been self-inflicted.


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[Host]


In the meantime, Investigators arrived at the Routier house to see if they could determine what happened. One of the first investigators at the scene was James Cron, a retired crime scene analyst who was contacted to help with analyzing the crime scene. Here’s Cron explaining that moment:


(Video)


After only about 20 or 30 minutes of looking around, and despite an open window with a screen cut, glass all over the floor and knife, Cron said it didn’t look like there had been an intruder in the house.


From that moment on, the investigators pretty much moved forward with believing that there had been no intruder that attacked the family.


(Video)


Darlie would tell investigators her version of events: that an intruder broke into their home and stabbed the three of them while they slept - that she woke up to a strange man standing above her. The assailant was described as a white male, about six feet tall, wearing dark clothes and a baseball cap.

Police thought it was odd that the three of them had been brutally attacked by an armed intruder who had managed to do all of it without waking Darlie up until after the attack happened.

After examining the garage, investigators found a part of a shoe print that looked like it had picked up blood from inside of the house, but other than that, no indications anyone had run through the garage at all. They claimed the windowsill where the assailant had escaped still had layers of dust on it and that mulch in the flower beds near the windows was undisturbed. There was also no indication of a breakin at the main doors of the home.

On the 911 call, the operator had instructed Darlie to place towels on the wounds and investigators did find bloody towels in a hallway of the house. According to Darlie and Darin, Darlie had run back and forth to the kitchen two or three times to grab and wet the towels to then press them on her son’s wounds. She also tried to hold her son’s open wounds together while Darin performed CPR.

In regards to blood in the house, the majority of the boy’s blood was on or around the immediate area on the floor where they were attacked. Even though she was attacked on the couch, Darlie’s blood was prevalent throughout the living room, kitchen and utility room, but the majority of her blood was on or around the kitchen sink.


The murder weapon was identified as being a knife from a butcher block in the Routier’s kitchen - it had a distinctive white handle and after being tested contained the blood of only Darlie and Damon - Devon’s blood was not found on the knife.


There was no blood found from an unknown person at the scene. The family’s fingerprints were found throughout the house and there was an unidentified fingerprint on the living room coffee table that hasn’t been identified to this day.


The strangest and most controversial item of evidence was a sock that was found 75 yards or 225 feet away from the Routier home, three houses down in an alleyway. The sock had drops of blood from both Devon and Damon. Darin would testify at trial that the sock was his, that the family kept a rag pile in the utility room of old socks. There wasn’t any blood around the sock or leading to the sock.


The neighbors were questioned and told investigators they saw a black car near the Routier home around the time of the murders and that two men were seen the morning of the murders, walking on the side of the road. One was six feet tall with shoulder length brown hair, had no shoes on, and was wearing a black T-shirt. The second man was wearing a light colored baseball cap, a white shirt, and blue jeans.


About an hour before the attacks, an attempted break in was reported as happening about a half mile from the Routier home.


The autopsies on the boys indicated that they’d been stabbed with a large butcher knife. Damon had been stabbed six times: five times in the lower, mid and upper back, and one time in the left shoulder. Devon had been stabbed four times: in the upper left chest, in the left mid portion of the chest, the left forearm and left thigh. The cause of death for both was blunt force trauma.


A toxicology screening was done on Darlie and no drugs were found other than mild amounts of amphetamines which could’ve come from the diet pills she was taking.


Devon and Damon were buried in a single casket, so that, according to Darin, they could go to heaven together. He placed a small pocketknife in with the boys as a final present because he’d always refused to let them play with knives. Other items such as stuffed animals and silver coins were also put into the casket.


With still no suspect being announced, the public had been supportive of the Routier’s in finding out who the intruder was that murdered the boys. Then eight day after the murders, a small memorial “birthday party” for Devon was held at his gravesite that would change everything.


A small local news station was there to film the event. Darlie’s younger sister brought silly string and Darlie’s mother told everyone that there’d been enough crying and to put on a happy face just for that occasion. The family held a somber prayer service that wasn’t taped by the news station, then celebrated by spraying silly string on and around the graves.


(Video)


The video of the gravesite celebration was released to the public and included shocking footage of Darlie grinning, giggling and smacking her gum as she sprayed Silly String on the boys’ graves singing “Happy Birthday.”


The outcry on the video was HUGE and the public began turning on Darlie, believing how could a mother who had just lost not one, but TWO children, be laughing and shooting silly string over their graves?


Darlie was asked to comment on the event and had this to say:


(Video)


Four days after the memorial, on June 18th, 1996, Darlie Routier was arrested for the murder of her two sons:


(play officer saying Darlie’s arrest)


Her trial began on January 6, 1997 in Kerrville Texas.


Here’s a breakdown of the evidence presented in the case:

  • The cut window screen was in a half open half closed window and the screen was cut like an L-shape on the bottom portion of the window.

  • A nightshirt Darlie was wearing had blood spatter that indicated she had lifted the weapon up and over her shoulder or head. There were also puncture wounds on her shirt that didn't match the positions of any wounds on her body.

  • There was a broken wine glass on the floor near the open window, the glass had Darlie’s blood under it.

  • Efforts were made to clean the blood on and around the kitchen sink; the blood drops in the kitchen seemed to come from someone who had been standing still, not running after an intruder

  • The butcher knife from the alleged intruder was taken from the Routier’s kitchen

  • There was also a bread knife in the Routier house that when tested contained fiberglass rods that matched the fiberglass rods of the window screen that was cut in the garage

  • Three fingerprints were lifted: one print was found on a glass coffee table and a witness for the prosecution testified that Darlie’s right ring finger was neither identified as a source of that print nor excluded; a second print was found on the utility room door and a third was lifted below a bloody print on the door. Everyone in the house, including officers and paramedics were excluded from the other two prints.

  • The bloody sock found in the alley

  • The Silly String footage

  • The cuts to Darlie’s neck and arm

  • Robbery was ruled out as motive as nothing was taken from the house

  • Darlie had suffered from postpartum depression, had written about suicidal thoughts but she had no history of violence; the Routier’s business wasn’t doing well and they were behind in the mortgage

  • Investigators never implicated Darlie’s husband as a suspect and neither did Darlie


Prosecutors argued that Darlie’s injuries were self-inflicted, that the crime scene had been staged, and that she’d murdered her sons, although they really didn’t pinpoint a motive.


They described her as a “pampered, self-centered, materialistic woman with substantial debt, diving credit ratings and very little money in the bank who feared that her lavish lifestyle was about to end.” They said Darlie’s bleached hair and breast implants were evidence of a high maintenance woman who thought that her boys were too much responsibility and got in the way of her desired lifestyle.


If financial gain was looked at as being a motive, that didn’t pan out. Both the boys had life insurance policies, but they barely amounted to $10,000, not even enough to cover their funeral expenses. Darin had a larger policy at $800,000, and he was obviously still alive.


The defense also questioned that if the reason to kill her sons was to preserve her lavish lifestyle, why then did she leave baby Drake alive?


In regards to the bloody sock, it was argued that Darlie could’ve easily planted the sock outside before stabbing herself. Basically that it was a ruse to point to an intruder running from the scene.


A blood spatter analyst testified that cast-off blood found on the back of Darlie’s nightshirt showed she had raised the knife over her head as she withdrew it from each of her son’s to stab again.


To point out the numerous deficiencies in the investigation, Jimmy Patterson, the lead investigator, took the stand and was questioned by the defense if he had set up a secret recording device at the boys’ gravesites hoping to catch Darlie in a confession. Patterson refused to answer and pled the fifth.


The Defense’s position was that there was no reason she would’ve killed her boys, that she didn’t have a motive, she didn’t confess and there were no witnesses. They said it was completely unrealistic to accuse her of staging the crime scene.


Darlie was urged NOT to testify, but she went up on the stand anyways and pretty much crumbled under cross-examination.


She claimed she suffered from traumatic amnesia and couldn’t remember certain details. She said she slept through the murders, but whenever she needed to explain the evidence, her memory was fine.


She also claimed that a vacuum that was found resting on top of her bloody footprints was in that position because she had trouble walking and needed to use it as a cane, although there wasn’t anything wrong with her legs.


She explained that there was blood around the kitchen sink because she had run back and forth to the sink to get wet towels to apply to her boys' wounds - and Darin corroborated that story as well. Prosecutors theorized that she most likely cut her own throat and arm over the sink which explained the amount of her blood found in that area.


Throughout her testimony, Darlie never once confessed to killing her two boys.


The defense also pointed out that the bloody sock found in the alleyway was proof enough that Darlie couldn’t have committed the crime. Damon was still alive when paramedics arrived on scene but died on the way to the hospital and the medical examiner testified that he could’ve survived only about eight minutes after his injuries. Darlie was on the phone with 911 for almost six minutes….so this time frame didn’t leave enough time for Darlie to cut herself, stage the crime scene, throw the sock in the alley - leaving no traces of her own blood along the way - and then run back inside the house before paramedics arrived.


As a matter of fact, despite her injuries, her blood wasn’t found in the garage or anywhere outside the home.


The Chief Medical Examiner testified that the cut on her neck wasn’t consistent with a self-inflicted wound. Part of her necklace had been pushed into her neck wound and was released when the bandage covering her neck was removed.


A private investigator hired by the defense questioned how Darlie was able to cut her own throat at the angle it was slashed and stab herself in her right arm, being that she was right handed.


There was also the unidentified bloody fingerprint on the coffee table and that a spot of Darlie’s blood that was found under the broken wine glass COULD HAVE been disturbed by someone at the crime scene.


While the jury deliberated, they requested to watch that famous silly string video an additional 8 times.


On February 4, 1997 the jury found Darlie guilty of the murder of 5 year old Damon. She was also charged for the murder of Devon, but was never tried for it. She was sentenced to death by lethal injection.


In 2011 Darin filed for divorce, not because he believed she was guilty, but because their marriage had been in “limbo” since her conviction. He said the decision was mutual and “very difficult.”


Baby Drake was placed in the custody of his paternal grandparents following the murders and lived with several other relatives through the years but eventually came to live with his father. He was sadly diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 17.


In 2021 new DNA testing was approved on the blood found in the living room and in the home. Testing will be done on the bloody sock, hairs recovered from the sock, blankets and pillow cases found at the scene, the nightshirt worn by Darlie and clothes worn by the boys, fingernail clippings from the boys, the bloody knife and hairs on the knife.


Darlie’s now 52 years old and still on death row. An execution date has NOT been set and she’s still going through appeals and currently awaiting the DNA testing results.


Now I’ve read some strange cases and senseless crimes, but it’s hard to avoid the question of why someone would break into a house, not knowing who is in that house or what they’ll find, NOT bring a weapon with them, and randomly stab two children but leave a possible witness alive?


Darlie did an interview with Sylvia Chase with ABC shortly after her conviction...here’s a snippet of that interview where she explains the moment she was attacked and how she was just a normal person who couldn’t have murdered her children:


(Interview)

There’s been a slew of documentaries made about this case, some leaning towards her guilt and others staunchly claiming her innocence. So which camp are you on? The side of innocence or the side of guilty? Maybe Darlie didn’t do it - maybe she was wrongfully accused and authorities missed focusing on another suspect. It’s possible the bloody sock in the alleyway proved it was an intruder. Even a couple of the jurors who convicted her have come out saying that they had made the wrong decision.


Or maybe she did kill her two sons. Maybe the pressures of motherhood, the strain of everyday tasks and expectations became too much for Darlie and she longed for the life she once had. Maybe as a society we have a hard time believing that a woman, a mother, could possibly plan and carry out the murder of her own flesh and blood.


Darlie Routier now spends her days on death row in the Mountain View State Prison in Gatesville, Texas. She’s become the seventh woman on Texas’ Death Row. Her once blonde hair is now a chestnut brown and she enjoys walks around the prison grounds, working out, and reading books that she can talk about with her son Drake. She has a constant stream of visitors, from friends and family to reporters and private investigators. She receives letters of sympathy and support from other parents. She has issued appeals for her sentence, but they have all been denied.


In 2013 Darlie did an interview for an episode called “On Death Row with director Werner Herzog” where she described a dream she had of her and her boys:


(Dream Excerpt)



[Host]

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