‘American Sniper’ Killer Convicted | Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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‘American Sniper’ Killer Convicted

STEPHENVILLE, Texas (CN) - Eddie Ray Routh was convicted of capital murder Tuesday night and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for killing "American Sniper" Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a Texas shooting range.

The jury deliberated for less than 2½ hours before returning its verdict, rejecting Routh's claim that he was insane when he killed the men on Feb. 2, 2013.

Deliberations began just before 6:40 p.m., after attorneys concluded their closing arguments with two different portraits of Routh on display.

"This defendant gunned down two men in cold blood in our county," Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash told the 10-woman, two-man jury during closing arguments. "Find him guilty."

Jurors saw graphic crime scene and autopsy photos of the two slain men, viewed police dash cam footage and heard from at least 35 witnesses in the trial that began Feb. 11.

They heard from the killer himself through a videotaped police confession and in a tense stand-off with authorities, in which he makes bizarre comments about the apocalypse, hell and voodoo.

Defense experts said Routh believed Kyle and Littlefield were pig assassins, that his neighbor was a member of the Mexican mafia who ate his excrement through the pipes, and that his co-workers were cannibals.

Routh declined to testify on his own behalf.

"He's clearly delusional and has been since at least July 2011, with some frequency," defense attorney R. Shay Isham said just before the jury started deliberating.

Defense attorneys built up an insanity defense throughout the two-week trial, claiming Routh suffered from schizophrenia, PTSD, and at the time of the murders, was in the grip of a psychosis "so severe that he didn't know what he was doing was wrong" when he killed Kyle, 38, and Littlefield, 35.

"I think we can all agree that Eddie has something wrong with him," Assistant Attorney General Jane Starnes said. "He's a weird, weird guy ... but that's not mental illness."

Starnes ended the state's case by arguing that Routh deliberately murdered the two men in a way "that was calculated and that was cold. It wasn't accidental."

She said that Routh fired two more shots into Littlefield as he lay twitching in a pool of blood and after firing six deadly shots at Kyle.

"This was not to prevent him from getting up, but to finish him off," she said. "He didn't want Chad dead. He wanted Chad dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead. And he wanted the same for Chris."

Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle, stormed out of the courtroom during defense attorneys' closing arguments. She banged the door on the way out and was not present during the verdict. Kyle has sat through testimony in the north Texas town of Stephenville, at times quietly crying, every day of the trial.

Routh sat emotionless as the verdict was read and starred straight at the Littlefield family during victim impact statements which were heard immediately after sentencing.

Jerry Richardson, Littlefield's half brother, told Routh that his irresponsible choices cost their family "a great son, husband, brother and uncle."

"You took the lives of two heroes and you became an American disgrace," Richardson said.

"Your childish actions have brought humiliation to you and your family and they will have to carry the scar of what you've become: a murderer."

Don Littlefield, Chad's father, standing just feet from Routh, told the convicted double murderer that his son was only trying to help him.

"You confessed that you did not know Chad's name. ... Let me remind you, his name is Chad Littlefield," he said, slowly spelling out each letter of his deceased son's name while glaring at Routh.

Outside the courthouse, Littlefield's mother told reporters that she has waited more than two years for justice.

"And as always God has proven to be faithful and we're so thrilled that we have the verdict that we have tonight," she said.

Erath County Judge Jason Cashon said Routh can appeal the verdict to Texas' 11th Court of Appeals.

Kyle is famous for being the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. He is played by Bradley Cooper in the Clint Eastwood-directed movie depicting his life, based on Kyle's 2012 autobiography. It has grossed more than $320 million at the box office since its December 2014 release.

Littlefield was a logistics manager at a north Texas chemical lab. He and Kyle became fast friends before Kyle's bestselling book was published, when they met on a soccer field where their children played. The two shared a similar sense of humor and a passion for spending time with veterans, Taya Kyle testified.

Starnes said that Routh killed Kyle and Littlefield because they wouldn't talk to him on the one-hour drive for what was supposed to be a therapeutic trip to an upscale gun range.

"That's their nature," Starnes said. "They're not real talkative guys. They were shot because they wouldn't talk to him, not because they're 'pigmen.'"

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