Recording of Routh’s confession played in court; defense to plead insanity

By Kathryn Jones

Editor

STEPHENVILLE — The veteran accused of killing the military’s “deadliest sniper,” Chris Kyle, and his friend Chad Littlefield at Rough Creek Lodge last year confessed to the murders in a recorded interview that was played in court Friday.

Accused killer Eddie Ray Routh appears in district court as attorneys wrangle over pre-trial motions. Photo courtesy WFAA-TV

Accused killer Eddie Ray Routh appears in district court. Photo courtesy WFAA-TV

A video and audio file of the interview was the prosecution’s first key piece of evidence revealed in a Stephenville district courtroom Friday morning as part of a pre-trial hearing. Defendant Eddie Ray Routh’s defense attorneys have moved to suppress the statements their court-appointed client made in the interview.

They also indicated to Judge Jason Cashon that they plan to use the insanity defense in the  high-profile double-murder case. Routh previously pleaded not guilty to the killings.

Jury selection in the capital murder trial is scheduled to begin in Stephenville on May 5. Cashon is expected to make a ruling on the motion in several days. Prosecutor Alan Nash has not announced he will seek the death penalty, but he said that remains an option.

The double-murder took place on Feb. 2, 2013, at a remote gun range at Rough Creek Lodge on the far eastern edge of Erath County. Law enforcement authorities said Kyle, a retired NAVY Seal and author of the best-selling memoir American Sniper, and Littlefield took Routh to the gun range to help the young Marine, who had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from service in Iraq and Haiti.

Routh, 26, again appeared under tight security in court and was escorted to the Donald E. Jones Justice Center downtown by a police convoy. The road behind the facility was blocked to traffic for Routh’s delivery to the courtroom from the Erath County Jail.

Those watching the proceedings from the gallery were scanned by a metal detector and wand and were not allowed to bring bags, purses, cell phones, cameras and any electronic devices into the courtroom.

During the hearing, which lasted about two hours, Routh sat in his striped jail uniform at the defense table with his attorneys Warren St. John and Tim Moore, both of Fort Worth, and Shay Isham of Stephenville.

Also present in the courtroom were Routh’s mother, Jodi, and Littlefield’s parents, Don and Judy, and a brother, Jerry.

District Attorney Nash called Texas Ranger Danny Briley, who is from Glen Rose, to testify about the 45- to 50-minute interview he conducted with Routh in Lancaster after his arrest for the killings. The interview, which began around 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 2, 2013, and continued past midnight Feb. 3, 2013,was recorded and the DVD was played in the courtroom.

Briley testified he met with Routh in an interview room at the Lancaster Police Department. Routh, who lived in Lancaster, said he “fled” the scene of the killings in Kyle’s truck and drove to Midlothian, where his sister, Laura, lived. According to an arrest affidavit, Routh told his sister that he had “traded his soul” for Kyle’s new truck.

Routh was apprehended on Interstate 35 after Lancaster police rammed the vehicle and threw down spikes to blow out the tires. Once the vehicle was disabled, Routh surrendered without incident, Briley testified.

The Texas Ranger was shown in the video part of the recording informing Routh of his constitutional rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present. In the video Routh was wearing a striped knit shirt, jeans and boots, the same clothes he had worn at Rough Creek where he, Kyle and Littlefield had gone to shoot weapons. Routh, who was bearded and thin, had his hands cuffed behind his back during the interview.

Routh appeared to nod in agreement when Briley asked if he understood his rights.

At times during the interview, Routh spoke of having a “rough time,” of unnamed forces “eating at his soul” and having “abandonment issues and trust issues.”

“I just wish the world wasn’t just such a soulless place, you know?” he said.

Other responses to Briley’s questions sounded “delusional” and “bizarre,” as St. John put it. Routh spoke of “talking to the wolf…the one in the sky” and of “smelling pigs” and of streets in Texas that are no longer straight and towns that are no longer square. He laced some of his sentences with profanity and references to political entities such as the “world council” and the “Communism Party.”

Although he rambled and slurred his words at times, Routh also gave Briley details about what happened that day at Rough Creek.

Kyle and Littlefield picked up Routh at his home and they drove in Kyle’s pickup to the shooting range on a remote part of the 11,000-acre resort.

“We drove down to the country down there and went and did some shooting sports,” Routh said.

“What kind of shooting sports?” Briley asked in the video.

“Imagining headhunters,” Routh responded. “Trying to run everybody down.”

Briley asked Routh which man he shot first.

“The one I could clearly identify,” he said, an apparent reference to Kyle. “I knew if I did not take his soul, he was going to take mine.”

What did Routh tell his sister, Briley asked.

“I told her I had to kill a man today,” Routh responded. “It wasn’t a want to. It was a need. I was going to be the next one up there getting my head shot.”

Routh said he used a 9mm semi-automatic pistol to kill the men. Did they know he was going to shoot them, Briley wanted to know.

No, Routh said, “’cause their training wasn’t as good.”

What did Routh do after the killings, Briley asked.

“I fled,” Routh responded. “I didn’t know what else to do. My adrenalin was pumped so high. I didn’t know what was right. I didn’t know what was wrong.”

The keys were in Kyle’s vehicle, he said.

Under repeated questioning from Briley, Routh admitted he had smoked marijuana earlier that day — he described it as “wet,” possibly containing formaldehyde.

Briley told Routh he shouldn’t have done the crimes. “These men, they’re heroes. Ultimate heroes,” he said.

“Right,” Routh responded.

At one point in the recording Routh asked if his parents had arrived.

“I’d like to see them,” he said. “See if I can at least hug my mom one last time.”

At that comment, Jodi Routh teared up as she sat in the gallery several feet from her son.

“Is there anything you want to say to the families?” Briley asked Routh.

“Yes, I’m just sorry for what I’ve done and we can work this out,” he responded. Later he added: “I’d tell them I’m so sorry for what I done and if I could have done it differently, I’d have have done it somewhat differently.”

During his questioning of Briley, St. John asked the Texas Ranger if he believed Routh’s responses were “rational.”

“I believe some responses were somewhat poetic and philosophical,” Briley said. “Sometimes he was not responsive. At the time I was just trying to figure out the facts.”

St. John said his main concern was “did he (Routh) understand he had the right to remain silent. I suggest he didn’t have the ability to have the understanding of what was going on.”

Pigs, souls and world councils “weren’t rational responses to what the Ranger asked,” he added. “Those are things in his mind.

“I would say his understanding of the right to remain silent did not exist,” St. John concluded.

Nash, though, told the court that Routh, after being read his rights, waived them by engaging in a “lengthy interview” that was “clearly voluntary” and without coercion or threats.

During the video, the visual images went blank and only the audio could be heard. Judge Cashon said he wanted to see a complete version of the video and would take the motion “under advisement” and then issue a written ruling.

After the hearing, Jodi Routh told reporters she could not comment about the case.

Littefield’s father, Don, made a brief comment: “We have a just God. His justice will be fulfilled.”

Members of the Kyle, Littlefield and Routh families are expected to be in attendance at the trial, as are regional and national news media.

Routh’s attorneys have said the veteran was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from active duty in Iraq and Haiti that they plan to use his psychological state in the trial. Shortly before the shootings, Routh had been treated at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Dallas and was released over his mother’s objections, his attorneys said.

Jodi Routh had asked Kyle, who often reached out to veterans, to help her son. Kyle often took veterans on hunting and shooting excursions to help them with stress.

Routh remains in the Erath County Jail on $3 million bond.

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