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SUSANNA REID reveals what it was like to meet the woman who is about to die for slaughtering her two sons


We are the same age with shoulder length dark hair, pale skin and a nervous feeling in the pit of our stomach.

We are also both mothers of three sons – another similarity, but one that highlights a cavernous gap between us.

Darlie Routier and I may only be separated by bulletproof glass, but we are worlds apart.

While I quietly miss my boys, who traveled all the way to Mountain View, Texas Women's Prison for this interview, Darlie is on death row for killing her offspring.

Susanna Reid interviews Darlie Routier at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas, on state death row for women. In this new documentary for ITV's crime and punishment line

She was sentenced to death for the murder of Damon, five, and was charged that night with the murder of six-year-old Devon.

She was never tried in the second instance because the prosecution wanted to be able to bring a second charge if she could not get a conviction in the first trial.

The very thought of double child murder is terrifying to most people. But as a mother, I feel particularly sick when I'm only inches away from a woman who has done something like that.

A woman who had so brutally beaten the life that had brought her into the world.

Darlie isn't the first killer I've come across, but interacting with a mother who's done the most unnatural thing in the world is one of the most emotionally challenging situations I've ever worked in. And the case is far from clear.

50-year-old Darlie has always protested her innocence – and there are many who support her claim that an intruder killed her sons.

They range from her ex-husband and surviving son, now 25, to the friends who say she was mistakenly painted as a sadistic killer and the veteran appeals attorney who says no one will ever convince him of her guilt.

But a jury was convinced and sentenced her in 1997, making Darlie one of America's most notorious female prisoners.

She has been waiting here to be executed by lethal injection ever since.

Texas mother Darlie Router, pictured above with her three sons, has spent more than 20 years on death row for murdering 5-year-old Damon (left) and stabbing 6-year-old Devon (right) despite her was never tried for the latter

Texas mother Darlie Router, pictured above with her three sons, has spent more than 20 years on death row for murdering 5-year-old Damon (left) and stabbing 6-year-old Devon (right) despite her was never tried for the latter

I'm interviewing her for an ITV documentary on the case and my goal is to maintain objectivity in the face of a whirlwind of emotion.

But there are times when Darlie breaks down in front of me and weeps at the sight of her murdered sons, and I feel the tears in my own eyes … times when I need to remind myself that my instinctive maternal empathy doesn't mean that she is innocent woman.

I can't let their looks influence me either. I had imagined a woman torn apart by her own hatred and simmering with rage that she couldn't get away with making imaginary claims that an intruder had killed her children.

Routier is taken to the Mountain View division of the Texas Department of Corrections in Gatesville, Texas, where she is now one of six women awaiting execution

Routier is taken to the Mountain View division of the Texas Department of Corrections in Gatesville, Texas, where she is now one of six women awaiting execution

Instead, I find a neat, low-key woman with a carefully coiffed hairstyle that has succumbed to the middle-aged spread but still looks very presentable.

And then there is the moment when she thinks about her job in the prison garden: "It's wonderful to see plants grow, to look after something."

I point out the shocking irony, considering that she killed these, it was her job to care for them. Of course, that's if Darlie is really guilty.

She fixes me with her dark eyes and says, "I am convicted, but I am not a murderer." I didn't kill my two children. If they want to kill me, that's my innocent blood that will be on their hands. "Your tone is defiant, but incredibly hopeful, still to be believed.

The ability to send an innocent person to death is one reason I am against the death penalty.

And after hours of pondering the horrific details of Darlie's case, I am convinced that there are reasonable doubts. But that's not the same as innocence – and the jury apparently had no such doubts.

The gruesome murders took place on the night of June 6, 1997 at Darlie and Darin Routiers' home in Rowlett, Texas (pictured)

The gruesome murders took place on the night of June 6, 1997 at Darlie and Darin Routiers' home in Rowlett, Texas (pictured)

On the night of June 6, 1996, Darlie was an exhausted 26-year-old mother. Her eight-month-old son Drake was usually such a restless sleeper that she slept downstairs in the lounge of her large Dallas home to rest.

That night her two oldest sons had joined her while her husband Darin slept upstairs with the baby.

What cannot be denied is that Devon was stabbed repeatedly in the chest and Damon in the back during the night – in both cases with such ferocity that the knife went through their tiny bodies several times.

Darlie herself had dipped a knife in her arm and cut her throat so deep that doctors said her carotid artery was nicked, the blade only 2 mm away and she bled to death in minutes.

While Devon died on the scene, his younger brother lost his life in the hospital.

Routier shows severe bruises on his right arm after the sting, which she accuses an intruder

Routier shows severe bruises on his right arm after the sting, which she accuses an intruder

Darlie told police the perpetrator was an intruder who slit a screen to get through the utility room window while they slept.

She says she did not wake up when the boys were stabbed or even when her own neck was cut, but was woken up by little Damon pressing on her shoulder.

It came to a terrifying scene and a man in dark clothes fled the house through the utility room window.

She picked up the knife he dropped, rang 911 and shouted desperately that her boys were dying and screaming, "I don't even know who did this." Inside ran down the stairs, heard the noise and tried in vain to save her life.

"I could see Devon lying there, his eyes open," says Darlie tearfully. "He didn't move. I remember going to Damon.

He was on his back and I could see that he had been stabbed in the back. I picked up his shirt and put towels on him and kept telling him, "Wait, baby, wait." ’

A test exhibition shows blood stains in the Routiers' house after the knife attack

A test exhibition shows blood stains in the Routiers' house after the knife attack

She cries as she describes the scene, and I crumble as she talks about her boys' final moments.

"Devon and Damon were my heart," she tells me. "You made me happy."

I am in agony over her tears. They're either heartbreaking memories of a devastating loss – or part of an ongoing, calculated cover-up. I am completely torn.

The living room and kitchen were covered in blood and broken glass. Darlie was taken to the hospital and photos show her injured and bleeding. In the meantime, police gathered evidence at the scene and examined the knife.

They examined the torn screen and dusted it after taking prints. They pondered what kind of criminal would break into a family home and steal nothing but take the lives of two children.

When Darlie came home days later and did something so unexpected for a grieving mother, the course of the investigation changed completely.

Prosecutors alleged Routier was angry about money problems and the pressures of motherhood (pictured with her two eldest sons).

Prosecutors alleged Routier was angry about money problems and the pressures of motherhood (pictured with her two eldest sons).

TV news shows her throwing a party next to her boys' graves a week after the Devonian seventh birthday murders.

In it you see her laughing with friends, chewing gum and – in an act that would ultimately condemn her – spraying Silly String on the tombstones.

There was no crying or solemn reflection in the clip, which was shown over and over on television news programs. Was this an example of a traumatized, heartbroken mother?

"She shot Silly String in the graves – she didn't seem concerned that these children were murdered," noted Attorney Toby Shook. "The tape showed a very strange way of reacting to death." Within days, Darlie was charged with murder.

There is no doubt that the "Silly String Tape," as it came to be known, depicts a grieving mother acting in the strangest possible ways, and I really want to ask Darlie about it.

The mother suffered a cut in the neck and cuts on the shoulders (pictured in the hospital).

The mother suffered a cut in the neck and cuts on the shoulders (pictured in the hospital).

She looks pained when she tells me, "There is no book that tells you how to do this, how to grieve." We gave him the party he wasn't allowed to have. Everything we did was for love. "

Since it was not possible to find convincing evidence in Darlie's defense that a stranger had murdered her sons and pronounced dead, this tape was used by the prosecution as evidence that Darlie had killed the boys.

Your motive? She has been characterized as a bottle-blonde cheerleader who was superficial, vain and frustrated with being a mom. Children disrupted their lifestyle.

There were also claims of money worries – they were two months behind on their mortgage – and concerns that the growing family was running out of finances.

I notice the scar that is still visible on Darlie's neck. But the wound was all part of the cover story, it was alleged. Abundant blood around the sink suggested that she had cut her throat near the kitchen taps.

Prosecutors showed the jury this video of Routier Silly String giggling and spraying on her sons graves on Devon's seventh birthday

Prosecutors showed the jury this video of Routier Silly String giggling and spraying on her sons graves on Devon's seventh birthday

The utility room screen is said to have been slit open with a bread knife kept in Darlie's own knife block, and she put it back after damaging the screen to create the appearance of an intruder.

At the grave party, the jury viewed the footage up to eight times. They were convinced of their guilt. Darlie was sentenced to death.

But almost 25 years later, concerns remain as to whether an innocent grieving mother was wrongly punished and ripped off by her surviving son, whose life was overshadowed by unbearable losses.

Defense attorney Stephen Cooper, who has worked on multiple appeals on Darlie's behalf, told me, "I'm about as close as anyone on Earth and I can tell you she didn't."

He says the idea of ​​Darlie slitting her throat is ridiculous: she was right-handed but the wound was inflicted, he claims, as if she "should have died" with her left hand and so heavy.

Routier (pictured in a recently released mug shot) had told police that an intruder broke into the house, killed her sons and slit his neck before escaping

Routier's neck wound

Routier (pictured on the left in a recently published mug shot) had told police that an intruder had broken into the house, killed her sons, and slit her neck (right) before escaping

What about the bread knife that had a screen fiber on it? Her appeals attorney says if the screen had been slit, the fibers would have gone everywhere and coated the knife – rather than leaving a single fiber.

There was also a white sock with the children's blood found 75 meters from the house. Had Darlie put it there to give the impression of an intrusion?

The defense says there was no way she had time to murder her boys, run down three houses to plant the sock, cut the window, and then cut her throat before police and paramedics arrived.

And the Silly String Party? It came at the end of an emotional two-hour vigil by the grieving family, which was also filmed but never shown in court.

Finally, there was critical evidence to support Darlie's claim of an intruder – an unidentified bloody fingerprint found at the crime scene. It didn't belong to any family member or investigator. It has yet to be identified.

Darlie may have been vain and materialistic, but these are not crimes. The family may have had financial problems, but is that really motive enough for murder?

Darlie fell in love with Darlie when she was a teenager. They got married at 18 and she had the dream life.

A handsome husband, a nice house, frequent vacations, and three jumping boys. She firmly believes that in the absence of real evidence against her, the police resorted to a smeared reputation.

"If you have nothing else, you go to the assassination," she tells me. "I'm judged by people who didn't know me."

What about in it? When Darlie was charged, police confirmed that he was not a suspect. The couple stayed married until 2011, and he has publicly stated that he believes they are innocent.

More from Susanna Reid for the Daily Mail …

Darlies appellate attorney says Darin admitted insurance fraud and a conspiracy for a staged robbery in a signed affidavit so he could file a claim.

Darlie told us that she is concerned about some of the people she has mixed up with since then. We reached out to Darin to conduct an interview for the program, but he declined to be interviewed.

Meanwhile, the sword of Damocles dangles closer and closer to Darlie. Not many women receive the ultimate sentence in the US: 53 women are on death row nationwide, while there are around 2,500 men.

The last woman to be executed in Texas was 38 years ago, 38-year-old Lisa Ann Coleman. She was convicted of the murder of her friend's young son ten years earlier.

On average, a prisoner in the United States spends about ten years on death row before his execution.

Darlie has been in Gatesville, where Mountain View is a unit, for 23 years due to endless appeals – the latest one focused on delayed DNA testing.

She has yet to set an execution date.

"You really have to take it one day at a time," says Darlie. “I never forget that this is one of the states where most of the executions take place. The reality is that there is a very real possibility that I could be executed.

“Hopefully I'll be relieved. I am less afraid. I am at peace with myself. I didn't do that. I didn't murder my children.

“I did not attack myself. If you want to kill me, you have to answer for it. "

After our meeting, I walk through the security gates of the prison to the freedom of the open road, not looking to be with my own family.

Questions about Darlie Routier have come to my mind ever since. The embodiment of a calculated, cold-blooded evil or a victim sentenced to death for not adequately playing the role of the grieving mother?

You decide – because when she cried through the glass, I found that I couldn't. It's a story that still haunts me.

  • The women with Susanna Reid on death row are on ITV next Thursday at 9 p.m.

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