IT WAS ONLY early summer, but already the sun beat down with a fury on the flat anvil that is Texas. On the fifth day of June 1996 the temperature hit 93 degrees and again there was no rain to cool things down. The entire year had been dog-bone dry, and while sixteen inches of rain should have fallen by this time, less than eight had come, leaving the plains dusty and turning the concrete towers and miles of paved road of the big cities into heat-reflecting ovens. A whisper of wet was in the air as forecasters predicted that a front moving in from the west might soon bring afternoon thunderstorms. Thirty percent chance. By the time the sun finally set that day, late, at 8:39 P.M., Dallas had been well-cooked and could look forward only to more of the same. It was, after all, Texas in the summertime. A quarter-moon rose, barely piercing the welcome darkness, which brought a slight reduction in the baking temperature.
Twenty-five miles to the northeast of Dallas, just beyond the 1-635 ring road around the city, in a spacious home in the town of Rowlett, Darlie Routier found it was uncomfortable. The temperature for the night eventually would only dip to 70 degrees, leaving Texans reaching for their air conditioners and fans. Heat rises, which meant the upper floor of the two-story brick-fronted house on the sweeping corner at 5801 Eagle Drive would be hotter than the downstairs, even with the air-conditioning. She wore only a light T-shirt and panties. Her husband, Darin, had gone upstairs to put their eight-month-old infant son, Drake, into the crib, brought her down a pillow and light blanket, kissed her good night, and then went up into their master bedroom.
Darlie chose to remain on the cooler lower floor, in the family room, with their two older boys. Everyone had a name that began with the letter D. In addition to Darlie and Darin, and the baby Drake, there was Devon, aged six, and Damon, five. The boys, all with the dark hair of their father, were startlingly good-looking kids.
Darin, twenty-eight, was handsome, with a well-trimmed beard and slim body, and twenty-six-year-old Darlie Lynn Routier was a quintessential Texas blonde with a lot of curves to match a dazzling smile. Sweethearts from the moment they met while they were both teenagers, they had been married for eight years. Darin’s talents as an entrepreneur provided a more than comfortable lifestyle, and they had talked for a while that night before he went upstairs about the broken Jaguar and that money-sucking boat they planned to sell, one of Darin’s business ventures that didn’t work out.
Devon and Damon were as boisterous as always that night, still excited by the visit of their aunt, Dana Stahl, one of Darlie’s teen-aged sisters, and had splashed almost all of the water out of the hot tub in the backyard after dinner. The brothers’ seemingly bottomless pit of energy had led the family area in the big house to be called the “Roamin’ Room.” Darlie let the boys sack out on the floor and she settled onto the couch against the west wall. All three of them fell asleep that Wednesday night to the mindless muttering of the television set.
She had not been asleep long when she felt a tiny push on her shoulder and heard Damon calling weakly to her, “Mommy, Mommy.” The words were strained, barely whispered, a tone most unusual from any five-year-old boy. Darlie opened her eyes to find a nightmare.
By the shimmering, lambent light of the television set, she made out the shape of a tall man leaning close to her. It was not Darin, but a stranger, someone she had never seen before. He wore dark clothing from head to toe, blue jeans, a black short-sleeved T-shirt and a dark baseball cap, the bill facing forward, keeping his face deep in shadow. Puzzled as she came out of her sleep, she didn’t scream, even when she saw a big knife in his right hand.
Darlie glanced at her boys on the floor, horrified to see that they were surrounded by dark pools of blood. Devon lay quiet and still on his back, his small chest ripped by savage wounds. After awakening his mother, Damon slid back to the floor and Darlie could see he, too, was slathered in blood.
She stared in shock at the mysterious stranger and he moved away, perhaps thinking it was time to leave the awakened, wounded woman. Darlie, frozen in fear, still did not call out. Her mind was paralyzed by the unthinkable sudden violence which had invaded her quiet suburban home in the middle of the night.
It was when the assailant backed away that Darlie snapped out of her stupor. Her bare feet hit the floor and she went after the guy, their arms tangling as she struggled and he slashed at her again and again. She forced him to retreat through the kitchen and into the utility room, then to the garage. There was the sound of breaking glass and her bloodied bare feet tracked a path through the rear of the house as she chased the vicious intruder.
A clatter, and he dropped the knife. It was a long, white-handled weapon, just like the kind she kept in the kitchen butcher block. She reached down and picked it up. Now that she held the weapon, the intruder wanted no more of this feisty woman. He vanished through a door leading into the garage, and then disappeared, probably going out through a window. Darlie didn’t care where or how he had gone, as long as he was gone.
Exhausted, she dropped the big knife on the cement floor and hurried back into the house, each step seeming to take an eternity. A glance in a mirror shocked her, for Darlie, too, had been slashed and stabbed. A torrent of blood gushed from a long wound that went from her throat to her chest, splattering her nightshirt. Her hands were cut, as were her arms and her chin, and her mouth felt raw and sore.
Damon and Devon still lay where they had been attacked, their little bodies motionless and drenched by their own blood. She screamed as loud as she could to awaken Darin. What could she do to help the children?
At 2:31 A.M., Darlie struggled over to the kitchen telephone and dialed the emergency number, 911. The police operator heard an incomprehensible scream as the desolate Darlie begged for help. “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” The words tumbled out in a tangle, colliding and tumbling in screeching sentences. “My babies have been stabbed! My babies are dying! There’s blood everywhere!” Her grief soared into a noise that blurred into an almost electronic range of static. “Hang on, honey. Hang on, hang on,” Darlie said.
The keening and incoherence continued, a wave of thunderous portent. Judging by the explosion of emotion, something awful had happened at that house. The emergency communications officer checked a video screen, noted the telephone number from which the call was being made, the computer matched it to a specific address, and she radioed for help at the location.
Darin snapped awake as the tortured screams of his wife filled the dark house. It took but a heartbeat to get from sound asleep to wide awake, knowing in his gut that something awful had happened to make Darlie scream like that. He heard the distant tinkle of breaking glass as he leaped out of the bed and grabbed a pair of blue jeans.
He hit the landing at the top of the curving stairwell at a dead run, grabbing the smooth banister for balance and pounding down the stairs to the first floor, whipping around the corner and dashing through the darkness toward the rear rooms of the house. He saw carnage, and thought one of the boys had shattered the glass-topped coffee table.
“Devon!” screamed Darlie, who was in the kitchen, clutching a bloody towel to her throat and yelling into the telephone. “Devon! Devon!”
Darin looked down at his bloodied boys in horror, and it was as if a cold fist clutched his heart. Both had been brutalized. He dropped to his knees beside Devon and saw huge wounds in the child’s chest. The eyes, which were usually filled with wonder, were totally dim and lifeless, looking right up at him without seeing anything. There was no movement, no moan, no sign of life at all in Devon Routier.
Darin spun to check his other son. Damon was facedown with no wounds immediately visible, but the father knew by the stillness and the amount of spilled blood that the boy was badly hurt. He felt for a pulse and thought he detected a flutter of life. His mind whirled. He had no idea what kind of disaster had struck his family, only that his two oldest sons were dead or severely injured and his wife, gushing blood at her neck, was hysterical, fetching wet towels while she talked to police. He guessed that she was calling the police, so help would soon arrive. He could do nothing but work CPR on his little Devon’s bloody chest. And pray that Damon could hold on a little longer.
Darlie clung to the emergency line as if to a life preserver. “Baby?” she said softly at one point as she ran out of breath. Then she wailed again. “Who would do this?” Darlie was babbling, something about finding a knife, and the police operator told her not to pick it up. It might be evidence. Too late. “I’ve already touched it,” Darlie blurted out. “I picked it up. . . . We could have gotten prints from it, maybe.” Her babies lay butchered and bleeding near her feet and she was worrying about fingerprints and telling how someone cut a screen in the garage to enter the house through the utility room. For almost five minutes, she talked with the operator, until a policeman radioed in that he was at the front door of the house. By then, the shrieks had subsided, but not the emotion. Darlie Routier was obviously tumbling from the edge of an emotional cliff, hurtling into a deep and unknown blackness.
The parking lot of the Victory Baptist Church at 7005 Highway 66 was empty at 2:30 in the morning of June 6, except for the patrol car of David Waddell, a thirty-two-year-old officer who had been a Rowlett policeman for more than four years. He had been on duty nearly five hours and was looking forward to getting off at dawn to return home to his wife and two kids. The night had been calm, and he hoped it would stay that way as he watched occasional pairs of headlights slice the blackness along the highway that was one of the few roads in or out of the city.
Waddell was jerked out of any predawn drowsiness by the raucous sound of the fire chimes on his radio, and he switched to the fire channel in time to hear the calm voice of dispatcher Janet Brooks order the paramedics to roll immediately to 5801 Eagle Drive. There had been a stabbing. The young officer flipped on his emergency lights and the big patrol car jumped to life, leaving the church parking lot with a squeal of tires. Eagle Drive was two miles and two minutes away.
He braked the blue-and-white vehicle to a sudden stop when he approached the address, a large house on the corner where Eagle Drive curved to the left. A brightly lit fountain dominated the front lawn. A bare-chested man in blue jeans burst through the front door and ran past the fountain, screaming at the startled officer. David Waddell had no idea who Darin Routier was, and took out his pistol as he got out of the car and shouted for the advancing man to stop. Darin kept coming, staggering, yelling, loudly enough to wake the neighbors, “Someone has stabbed my children and my wife!” Weapon at the ready against his shoulder, Waddell followed Darin through the big door and into a bloody scene, the worst he had ever encountered as a policeman.
There was a mat of blood on the floor, and he saw first one, then two children lying on the floor, bleeding. A pale Darlie Routier was screaming hysterically into a cordless telephone while pressing a bloody rag to her neck. Waddell asked her who had done this, and she mumbled incoherently, but pointed toward an open door that led out the rear of the house. Waddell saw Darin drop to his knees and began trying CPR on one of the boys. The man looked up with pained eyes and told the policeman he could feel air coming through the wounds in the boy’s chest. Waddell ordered a stunned Darlie to get some towels and put them on the other boy, but the woman only continued to grip the telephone tightly and scream.
Overwhelmed by the bloody scene, Waddell let his training take over, remembering that his first duty was not to render first aid, but to make certain that the suspect who had made this vicious attack was no longer a danger. Thinking the attacker might still be in the garage, the policeman stepped around an island in the kitchen and peered through a utility room into the garage. He could see nothing at all. Charging blindly into such a situation all alone only happens in TV shows. There was no reason for him to barge into the dark garage by himself, inviting an ambush, for if he was killed, no one would be left to protect the family. The attacker could be anywhere. Upstairs, in the garage, at the back door, at a window, in a closet. He didn’t know. David Waddell carefully positioned himself between the family and the rest of the house, keeping both hands on his pistol and trying to talk to Darlie, telling her to sit down to slow the loss of blood that was pumping from a wound in her neck. Each passing second seemed like an hour. Help was on the way, wasn’t it?