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Friday, June 12, 1998

Polygraph test puts Darlie Routier's husband back under suspicion

By C. BRYSON HULL / Associated Press Writer

DALLAS (AP) -- When the relatives of death-row inmate Darlie Routier asked a Texas millionaire to help exonerate the suburban homemaker of killing her young sons, he was happy to help.

But now that Brian Pardo's privately funded investigation has put Mrs. Routier's husband, Darin, under suspicion, both their families wish Pardo would forget they asked.

He won't.

"I agreed I'd look into it with one proviso: that if I look into the case, I'd seek truth and justice wherever it leads," said Pardo, a semi-retired Waco insurance executive and former congressional candidate.

The surreal Routier saga returned to the front pages again last weekend when Pardo made public the results of a polygraph exam given to Darin Routier in an attempt to rule him out as a suspect. It did just the opposite.

Routier, 30, was given the same test three times on May 22, Pardo said. Each time, Routier gave deceptive answers to four questions about his knowledge of the crime, according to a polygraph examiner hired by Pardo.

"Darin is a very significant suspect in this crime," Pardo said, noting that "he had means, opportunity and motive."

Prosecutors say that's no news to them. Proving it is another matter.

"There always has been suspicion as to Darin Routier's knowledge or involvement, but so far we have not had enough to go forward for an indictment or anything like that," said Toby Shook, a Dallas County assistant district attorney who helped prosecute the case.

Routier says he was asleep upstairs with the couple's youngest son when his wife was stabbed and their two older boys were slain early June 6, 1996, at the family's home in Rowlett, 20 miles east of Dallas.

Mrs. Routier said she was asleep on a downstairs sofa when an unknown attacker stabbed her and fatally stabbed 5-year-old Damon and 6-year-old Devon.

In February 1997, authorities successfully argued there was no attacker, that Mrs. Routier was the slasher and that she cut herself to cover it up. A jury convicted her of capital murder and sentenced her to lethal injection.

Pardo's theory is that Routier was involved in planning the attack, but didn't kill the boys. The investigator believes there were as many as three intruders -- possibly including Routier -- whose only goal was to kill Mrs. Routier. The children, Pardo said, were slain because they witnessed the attack on their mother.

Pardo said the motive may have been a $250,000 life insurance policy for Mrs. Routier, of which Darin Routier was the beneficiary.

Mrs. Routier's mother, Darlie Kee, said her daughter still believes her husband was not involved.

"She knows 100 percent that Darin had nothing to do with this. She said that the only way she would ever believe that Darin was involved is if he confessed," Ms. Kee told The Dallas Morning News in Sunday's editions. "She said she knows Darin would never do anything to hurt their sons."

Nonetheless, Mrs. Routier wrote Pardo: "I must agree that $250,000 by itself could be enough of a motive for someone to kill. I've heard about stuff like that in here."

Mrs. Routier declined an interview request from The Associated Press. Her mother did not return repeated phone calls to her home.

The polygraph revelations and Pardo's assertions add to a litany of strange elements in the case, from a graveside birthday celebration just days after the slayings, replete with balloons and Silly String, to the convicted killer's death-row photo shoot for Cosmopolitan magazine.

Even Pardo's role in the case is unusual.

Mrs. Routier's relatives and in-laws approached Pardo in January, after NBC's Dateline program aired a segment on his investigation that concluded a man was executed for a 1982 triple murder he may not have committed.

Pardo was then asked by families to look into almost 1,000 other cases. He said he agreed to investigate the Routier case because it intrigued him.

Now, Darin Routier's mother says she and others in the family regret asking for Pardo's help.

"I really wish he'd just leave us alone," Sarilda Routier said. "He's not a detective. It's really sad that he's putting these things out there. Evidently, he has some other agenda than trying to find the truth. He just likes to get his name in the paper."

Routier held a news conference Sunday to denounce the polygraph test as rigged and to say he was severing his relationship with Pardo.

"If (Pardo) is willing to go with these allegations and against the truth, then we have no reason to use him," he said.

Authorities have been following the latest twists in the case and say they plan to follow up.

But other than meeting with Pardo to discuss his findings, Shook said he doesn't expect any action.

"When new information comes forward any time, you're obligated to -- and you want to -- examine it," Shook said. "But there's been no evidence clearing Darlie Routier. It's all speculation right now."

Legally, Pardo's investigation has no bearing on the appeal, said Stephen Cooper, the lawyer handling Mrs. Routier's appeal. Polygraph results are rarely, if ever, admissible in court.

A court, however, can hold a hearing to determine whether the new evidence merits a new trial.

Regardless, Pardo said he's sticking with the case. And he believes he has an ally in Darlie Routier, who has agreed to his suggestion that she not see her husband for 30 days.

"I don't believe Darin did this, but I feel you should follow it all the way through," Mrs. Routier wrote in her letter. "I just want the truth, Brian."

 

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