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Additional DNA tests ordered for Routier

Altoona native sentenced to death in 1996 murder of own children

An attorney representing Darlie Routier, a former Altoona woman facing the death penalty in Texas for the murder of her two young children 25 years ago, said he is buoyed by an order issued last week in Dallas County ordering additional DNA testing of the massive amount of evidence collected in the case.

Routier has maintained her innocence since the June 6, 1996, stabbing deaths of her children, Damon, 5, and Devon, 6, who were found dead in the family’s Rowlett, Texas, home during the early morning hours.

Police almost immediately focused on Routier, who was sleeping in a downstairs television room with the children. Her husband, Darin, according to court documents, was asleep with the couple’s newborn in an upstairs bedroom.

Routier said an intruder entered the home and stabbed her and the children. Routier suffered a near-fatal stab wound to her neck, which just missed the carotid artery.

Despite her claim of innocence, she was tried for the death of the 5-year-old, sentenced to death and is currently on death row.

The case has received worldwide attention and has been featured on several TV shows as Routier works to prove her innocence — through post-conviction petitions in Dallas County and in the U.S. District Court in West Texas.

One sticking point has been the DNA evidence.

Defense attorneys have fought for years to obtain court approval for DNA testing of the blood spatter evidence that was found throughout the lower floor of the Routier home, but progress on the federal court case has been on hold for more than a decade.

In April, though, the Innocence Project in New York entered the case and its review of the evidence and subsequent petition won court approval for further testing.

Judge Audra Riley of Dallas County signed on order on Sept. 30 instructing multiple agencies — including the Dallas County District Clerk, the Rowlett Police Department, the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification — to collect their evidence from the Routier case and send it to the Forensic Analytical Crime Laboratory in Hayward, Calif.

The judge also ordered DNA profiles from each member of the Routier family also be sent to the California lab for comparison purposes.

One of Darlie Routier’s attorneys, Richard R. Smith of Dallas, said the judge’s order was welcome news.

“We wanted it,” he stated.

Testing will be made on a sock that was found away from the scene of the murder, hairs recovered from the sock, Routier’s shirt, blankets and pillow cases found at the scene, the jeans worn by Routier and the children, fingernail clippings from the children, a bloody knife and hairs on the knife.

If the California lab, after comparing the many blood samples to the DNA profiles of the Routier family, determines that a “foreign eligible profile” has turned up, that sample is to be sent to Acadiana Criminalistics Laboratory in Iberia Parish, La., to determine if it matches the profile of anyone in the national DNA database.

If Acadiana Criminalistics recommends additional testing of samples, the specific evidence is to be sent to Mitotyping Technologies in State College to undergo mitochondrial DNA testing.

The Innocence Project is paying for the shipment of evidence between laboratories, according to the judge’s orders.

Attorneys for Routier, including Smith and J. Stephen Cooper of Dallas, Richard Burr of Houston and Jane Pucher and Vanessa Potkin of the Innocence Project, all agreed to the procedure as outlined by the judge.

Attorneys Cynthia Garza and Holly N. Dozier of the Dallas County Integrity Unit also gave their approval to the judge’s order.

Smith pointed out that many of the items being sent for analysis have never undergone DNA testing.

He also said that the post-conviction hearings in Dallas County could continue while the additional testing is underway.

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