For 15-year-old Rockwall resident, Ryan Kester, growing up in Rockwall, it was impossible not to hear the whispers about Darlie. Guilty or innocent? Justice or railroaded? He could not help but become intrigued. After extensive research, he realized that there are so many layers to this case that there was a need to explore them all.
Darlie: An All-American Murder began production in the summer of 2016 and filming began in the summer of 2017.
“At first it was small project, geared around the public perception of the case on a local and national level, but I realized there needed be more. I realized I needed to explore the public’s perception of the case, compared to the facts, compared to the truth,” Kester said. “Regardless of guilt or innocence, this case is not an open-and-shut one; on the surface, it is not hard to comprehend: a woman went off the deep-end because her three children were interfering with her lifestyle, so she took a kitchen knife, and butchered them on the living room floor, then cut her own throat to support the story of an intruder attacking her and her children.”
For Kester, there is a great deal more to the story than than that.
“The real story is confusing, and not everything is as it seems. Since her 1997 conviction, people have been thoroughly divided about her guilt and innocence; claims of improper police work, prosecutorial misconduct, and sexism abounded, and no one can quite agree on what really happened that night at 5801 Eagle. Darlie Routier sits on death-row, and in my film, I intend on exploring every piece of evidence presented at trial, giving a chance for both sides to shine light on what they believe led to Darlie being put on Death-Row,” Kester said.
On June 6, 1996 at 2:31 a.m, Doris Tramell was working the night shift. It was dull, and apart from the occasional call from a resident about their car being broken into, nothing ever really happened. And when the phone rang, she picked it up in her usual dry tone: “Rowlett 911, what is your emergency?” A woman’s hysterical voice rang out, screaming on the other end of the phone; “somebody came in, they broke in… they just stabbed me and my children… they just stabbed me and my kids, my little boys… my little boy is dying!” Doris sprang into action, trying to make sense of the inevitable carnage on the other end of the phone, trying to get a story from the woman pleading for an ambulance. That woman was Darlie Routier, and, 12 days later, she would be arrested for capital murder, charged with the death of her two sons, Devon and Damon. The community of Rowlett was stunned, and thoroughly divided about the young mother’s guilt. 23 years later, the story still looks over Lake Ray Hubbard, a dark spot on the area’s history, an all-American family, an all-American murder in an all-American town.
The Routier case was recently featured on ABC’s The Last Defense.
“I have a multitude of personal connections to famous cases, notably, the Routier case and the Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders, but from the time I was a kid, mysteries always intrigued me, and as I heard more about these real-life mysteries, so to speak, it became an interest of mine, then gradually a full-time hobby,” Kester said.
Kester is also the founder of the Rockwall True Crime Club, a group on Facebook for residents of Rockwall County to discuss cases such as the Routier case. Currently, the group has just reached the 500-member mark.
Kester has applied to multiple colleges and plans on studying political science and then onto law school.
Darlie: An All-American Murder is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2019, and it is dedicated to Devon and Damon Routier.