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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, February 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Double Killer Will not Testify in|’American Sniper’ Murder Trial

STEPHENVILLE, Texas (CN) - Days before he killed two men in cold blood, Eddie Ray Routh thought pigs were taking over the earth, that his co-workers were cannibals, and a tapeworm was eating him, trial testimony revealed Thursday.

Routh thought America's most lethal sniper, Chris Kyle, and his friend Chad Littlefield, were pig assassins who had hatched a plan to kill him. As the three men stood at a rural north Texas gun range on Feb. 2, 2013, Routh's paranoia hit a tipping point.

He used two pistols to fire six shots at Kyle and another seven rounds into Littlefield, killing the two friends before a gun range employee discovered their lifeless, bloody bodies.

Routh has confessed to the killings but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He told Erath County Judge Jason Cashon late Thursday afternoon that he would not testify on his own behalf in the capital murder trial that has captivated the country, partly due to the movie "American Sniper," based on Kyle's best-selling autobiography.

The former Marine's attorneys rested their case on day seven of the trial, after calling two psychologists who examined Routh after the slayings.

Both said that Routh was as mentally ill as they come.

They said he showed symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder. Routh was deluded and suffered from hallucinations, they said.

Dr. Charles Overstreet, a Tarrant County College psychology professor who evaluated Routh in jail, was not allowed to testify to jurors after the judge granted prosecutors' request to disqualify him as an expert witness. He is not licensed to practice medicine and cannot diagnose mental disorders, Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash said in a short hearing outside the jury's presence.

But Overstreet did shed light on Routh's account of the day he gunned down the two men.

"There are lots of weapons in the truck, there are lots of weapons at the range," Overstreet said. "He began to feel their plan was imminent."

Dr. Mitchell H. Dunn, a Terrell State Hospital forensic psychiatrist who evaluates patients for mental illness in his own private practice, was allowed to testify as an expert witness.

He said that by the time Kyle picked up Routh on that Saturday afternoon, the 27-year-old had been showing signs of psychosis for weeks. He had been prescribed a host of medications, including anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety and mood stabilizers and had a recent history of violent outbursts and bizarre behavior.

Dunn, who spent 6 hours interviewing Routh in April 2014, testified that Routh made himself and his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Weed, coffee and a breakfast of egg and bacon sandwiches the day of the murders.

He recounted Routh telling him that he thought his girlfriend was a pig hybrid, half human, half pig, but when he saw her eating bacon he thought, "Why would she eat her own kind?"

Although Routh often would go days without bathing, Weed said the two showered together that morning before they argued over his marijuana and tobacco-dipping habits.

Routh kicked her out of the Lancaster, Texas home he shared with his parents, Weed testified Wednesday.

Hours later, Routh was picked up by the acclaimed former Navy SEAL, unbeknownst to Weed, but Routh "found it odd that Chris Kyle didn't introduce himself or even shake his hand and they just went," Dunn said Thursday.

Routh told Dunn during the evaluation that neither Kyle nor Littlefield talked to him on the one-hour drive to the Texas gun range and that the truck's odor made "the hairs stand up on the back of his neck."

"It made him pretty nervous," Dunn said. "He began to think to himself this was going to be a one-way trip."

Dunn testified that while Routh and Kyle were target shooting, Routh found it "totally odd" that Littlefield wasn't shooting. Dunn said Routh interpreted Littlefield's behavior as threatening.

"He then said he fired at Chad Littlefield," Dunn said. "Then he saw Mr. Kyle looking and he shot him. He said he saw Littlefield twitching so he shot him in the head and the twitching stopped. He said he thought he neutralized the threat."

Family members of the two men quietly wept in court as they listened to the testimony.

Dunn said Routh told him he thought they were waiting to kill him because "assassins pick their time."

"He stood over their dead bodies in shock, but relieved that they died. He was acting in self-defense to kill them before they could kill him," Dunn told jurors.

"If you are going to be killed, then you have the right to defend yourself. He defended himself," he said. "I'm not saying that's logical. It's logical in his sense."

Under cross-examination by Assistant Attorney General Jane Starnes, Dunn acknowledged that Routh could have been jealous, angry or offended by Kyle and Littlefield, and his life in general.

"His life wasn't going the way he'd hoped," Dunn said.

He also conceded that the double murderer said he knew he was in trouble and figured he would be arrested, but at the same time Routh said he did what he needed to do.

"Is it true that even non-mentally ill people who commit a horrific crime try to justify it" Starnes asked. "It's hard to live with 'I'm a cold-blooded killer, right?'"

"Correct," Dunn said.

He told the jury of 10 women and two men that Routh expressed remorse to a Texas Ranger who interviewed him after the crimes and wanted to apologize to his victim's families.

"I just wish these handcuffs weren't on me," Routh said.

If convicted, Routh will be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. Prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty.

Two rebuttal psychiatrists were to testify for the prosecution Friday. Closing statements could come as early as Monday.

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