Veteran indicted for murder of ‘deadliest sniper’ Chris Kyle, Chad Littlefield

Eddie Ray Routh and his mother, Jodi. (Photo courtesy of the Routh family)

Eddie Ray Routh and his mother, Jodi

(Photo courtesy of the Routh family)

By Kathryn Jones

Editor

Eddie Ray Routh, the veteran arrested in the shooting deaths of “deadliest American sniper” Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield, was indicted for capital murder Wednesday by an Erath County Grand Jury.

Judge Jason Cashon also issued a gag order because of extensive media coverage of the case.

Routh Indictment

Routh, 25, remains in the Erath County Jail in Stephenville in lieu of $3 million bail. (Click to read the indictment below right.)

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Kyle, a retired Navy SEAL, and Littlefield were shot at close range on Feb. 2 at a remote gun range at the exclusive Rough Creek Lodge resort near Glen Rose.

Routh’s court-appointed attorneys have said they are planning to use the mental state of their client as a defense.

Routh’s mother, Jodi, a special education aide at an elementary school in Midlothian where Kyle and his family lived, had asked for Kyle’s help. She said her son was having problems adjusting after returning from two tours of duty as a U.S. Marine stationed in Iraq, then in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. He had been repeatedly hospitalized for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and released the week before the outing.

On the day of the killings, Kyle and Littlefield picked up Routh and took him to Rough Creek for a couple of hours of shooting. The bodies of Kyle and Littlefield were discovered later that afternoon. Kyle’s truck was missing. So was Routh.

According to an arrest affidavit, Routh drove Kyle’s truck to his sister’s home in Midlothian, where he confessed to the shootings. Within hours he was arrested, handcuffed and transported to Stephenville, where he was arrested on two counts of capital murder. Since then Routh has undergone psychological evaluation to determine his mental competence.

Eddie Ray Routh in his Erath County mugshot

Eddie Ray Routh in his Erath County mugshot

Kyle’s Navy SEAL buddies had given him the nickname of “The Legend” for his prowess as a sniper. He had killed anywhere from 150 to 160 insurgents during missions in Iraq, according to his 2012 memoir about his experiences, American Sniper, which became a New York Times bestseller.

“The Pentagon has officially confirmed more than 150 of Kyle’s kills (the previous American record was 109), but it has declined to verify the astonishing total number for this book,” the book’s publisher, Harper Collins, said.

In his memoir,Kyle recounted how he struggled with his own demons and the toll his military life took on his wife, Taya, and two young children. But he made the transition to civilian life and started a training company, Craft International, for the military and law enforcement. He also set up a foundation, FITCO Cares, to provide veterans free fitness equipment, personal training and life coaching to those with disabilities or suffering from PTSD.

Chris Kyle and his wife, Taya, in June 2012. (From the American Sniper Facebook page)
Chris Kyle and his wife, Taya, in June 2012.
(From the American Sniper Facebook page)

In an interview with this reporter for a cover story published this month in Tarleton Magazine, Kyle’s father, Wayne, who lives in Hamilton, said his son was not trying to give vets “therapy” in the psychological sense. Instead, he said Chris believed that taking them hunting or shooting in a non-threatening setting and training them ended up being a form of therapy.

“He got such joy out of taking the veterans and helping them with things, just going out to the range and shooting,” Wayne Kyle said. “If you take an individual that’s been in firefights and remove them from that and put them into the civilian world, they feel good about going out and shooting. It’s stress relief.”

Experts said there is no concrete data on crime rates related to Iraq or Afghanistan veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Suicide rates are beginning to be tracked, but not homicides. But the ties between PTSD and crime are not new to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In 1988 the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Survey found that about 480,000, or 15 percent, of all Vietnam vets were diagnosed with PTSD. About half of them had been arrested or jailed and 11.5 percent had been convicted of a felony.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that in 2011, VA medical centers and clinics treated 476,515 veterans with primary or secondary diagnoses of PTSD.

Stephenville attorney R. Shay Isham, one of Routh’s court-appointed lawyers, said that Routh’s mother pleaded with the VA hospital in Dallas not to release her son just the week before the killings. Routh’s other court-appointed attorney, J. Warren St. John of Fort Worth, said in an interview after Routh was arrested that he was he was “disheartened” by the way the military treats vets.

“These kids are trained to kill people,” St. John said. “Then we just expect them to come home and act in a normal manner?”

But Wayne Kyle said that under no circumstances should PTSD be an excuse for committing murder.

“Our family stands behind that 100 percent. I don’t know this individual (Routh) and don’t know whether he suffers from PTSD, but it is not an excuse for him to have committed the worst crime of our life,” he added.

The first case of an Iraq war veteran found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity due to PTSD was the 2009 case of Jessie Bratcher in Oregon. Rather than being sentenced to a maximum-security prison, he was sent to the Oregon State Hospital for treatment.

That same year, however, a PTSD case in Altoona, Pa., turned out differently. A veteran, Nicholas Horner, was charged with two murders less than a year after returning from Iraq. He had been diagnosed with PTSD. His lawyers argued he was taking a mix of drugs to treat the disorder and they “confused” him. The jury, however, convicted Horner of first-degree murder. Instead of receiving the death penalty, he got life in prison.

Barry R. Schaller, a former Connecticut Supreme Court judge, in his 2012 book, Veterans on Trial: The Coming Court Battles Over PTSD, predicted that a wave of cases connected to the “invisible injury” of PTSD is coming. The courts “will bear the brunt of postwar mental health problems,” he wrote.

Chris Kyle’s parents and wife plan to carry on his work on behalf of vets. Wayne Kyle said the family supports two organizations in particular, Halo for Freedom Warrior Foundation (www.haloforfreedom.org) and America’s Mighty Warriors (www. americasmightywarriors.org), which was started by the mother of Marc Alan Lee, the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq.

“Our government is not going to take care of our military nor its veterans,” Wayne Kyle said. “As citizens of this wonderful country that our veterans have provided us a means to live in and experience the freedoms that we have, it’s our duty to take care of them.”

Chris Kyle’s memorial service was held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Thousands of people waved flags and honored the procession down Interstate 35 as Kyle’s body was transported from Dallas-Fort Worth to Austin. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery.

 

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