Fingerprint in Routier case still unknown
Supporters of Darlie Routier — the former Altoona woman on death row in Texas after being convicted of the 1996 murder of one of her young sons — for years encouraged the state of Texas to run the images of an unidentified bloody fingerprint found at the murder scene.
Dallas County Judge Gracie Lewis last summer issued an order imploring the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to utilize the FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System in an effort to find the person who left the print on a coffee table in a downstairs television room where the bodies of Damon, 5, and his brother Devon, 6, were found during the early morning of June 6, 1996, after a frantic call for help by their mother.
In a joint status report filed last week with the U.S. Court of Appeals in West Texas, the defense team and the state of Texas said the images of the prints were run, but no match was obtained.
According to one of Routier’s attorneys, J. Stephen Cooper of Dallas, the story of the unidentified prints will not end there.
He is hoping that the defense will have the opportunity to run the prints now that the Innocence Project of New York has joined Routier’s team.
The Innocence Project has used DNA and fingerprint evidence to help free individuals who were wrongly convicted of murder, including Kevin Siehl of Johnstown.
Siehl was charged with killing his estranged wife, and he spent 25 years behind bars before the fingerprint and blood evidence used to convict him was discredited.
The Johnstown man, freed in 2016, has filed a federal lawsuit against the prosecutors and investigators of his case.
Cooper said the Routier case has been an ongoing battle between the prosecution and defense, and he complained that while the Texas Department of Criminal Justice agreed to run the unidentified prints, no representative of the defense team was permitted to observe what occurred.
He said that before a print is run it must first be evaluated by an expert.
Defense experts, including representatives of the Innocence Project, were not permitted to observe the methods used by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in running the images, Cooper reported.
He also said, testing of DNA evidence obtained from articles of clothing found during the investigation has been completed, but Cooper said the defense is hoping additional DNA testing will be done.
And for the first time, the Dallas County district attorney has permitted the defense to inspect its files on the Routier case.
The joint report submitted to the federal court indicated inspection of the DA’s records is ongoing.
With so much activity involving the Routier case, Cooper is confident, saying “We will eventually get to where we want to go.”
Darlie Routier’s mother, Darlie Kee, who was raised in Altoona and who had Darlie while living in Altoona 50 years ago, is hopeful that a state court post-conviction hearing in Dallas will eventually be held, but no date has been set.
The federal appeal filed by the defense has been stayed pending the outcome of hearings at the state level.
The case began during the early morning of June 6, 1996, when Darlie Routier reported that she and her two sons had been attacked and stabbed by an intruder while they were sleeping in the downstairs television room of their Rowlett, Texas, home.
The father of the children, Darin, reportedly was in an upstairs bedroom at the time, sleeping with the couple’s newborn, Drake.
Police within a short period of arriving at the scene, focused on Routier as the killer, despite evidence that she had been stabbed several times, including a near-fatal wound to her neck.
She was arrested and tried for Damon’s murder which, because of his age, carried the death penalty.
The hope of those who support the effort to free Darlie Routier was that the fingerprint would lead to the identification of the alleged intruder.
Darlie Kee said she still believes her daughter will eventually be released from prison.