STEPHENVILLE, Texas (CN) - The insanity defense of the Texas man accused of killing acclaimed Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield took a blow Friday when a prosecution witness revealed a possible motive for the murders.
Eddie Ray Routh's uncle and a former Erath County sheriff's deputy capped the first week of testimony in the capital murder trial of the 27 year-old former Marine that has gripped the country, partly due to the popularity of the blockbuster movie "American Sniper," based on Kyle's 2012 autobiography.
In an apparent jailhouse confession, former deputy Gene Cole testified that Routh told him he shot the two men because they wouldn't talk to him as they took a one-hour drive in Kyle's truck for what was supposed to be an enjoyable outing to an exclusive gun range outside Dallas.
"I was just riding in the back seat of the truck and nobody would talk to me," Cole said Routh told him. "They were just taking me to the range, so I shot them. I feel bad about it, but they wouldn't talk to me. ... I'm sure they've forgiven me."
Kyle and Littlefield met Routh for the first time that day after Routh's mom enlisted the former Navy SEAL's help with her son's struggles, including post-traumatic stress disorder and stints at mental health facilities, testimony revealed.
Routh's uncle, James Watson, also testified in the Erath County courtroom Friday. He said he saw his nephew before and after the slayings, when Routh told him, "Check out my truck. ... I'm driving a dead man's truck."
Watson, 45, said the comment didn't immediately raise any red flags with him because Routh would often make bizarre remarks, and thought he was talking about himself.
As defense attorneys told jurors at the start of the trial Wednesday, Watson said Routh seemed to have lost his desire for life after returning home from the Marines in 2010. He also grew frustrated with being unemployed.
"Does he know right from wrong? Assistant Attorney General Jane Starnes asked Routh's uncle on Friday.
"Yes, he does," Watson said.
As the trial in the north Texas town of Stephenville, pop. 17,100, has unfolded, prosecutors have painted Routh as a deliberate double-murderer who admitted shooting the two men to death, then fleeing in Kyle's stolen truck before leading police on a high-speed chase.
Erath County District Attorney Allen Nash on Thursday showed jurors a Taco Bell drive-through receipt for two bean burritos that he said was time-stamped after the killings. Prosecutors say the $2.36 fast-food purchase lends further evidence that Routh knew what he was doing.
Routh's attorneys claim their client is not guilty by reason of insanity. Fort Worth defense attorney Tim Moore told the jury during opening statements that the Marine veteran 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, in February 2013.
Nash said Routh's defense has "a heavy burden."
"The two core issues are: Did he intentionally cause the death of these two men, and did he know what he did was wrong?" Nash said on the trial's first day.
Kyle is famous for being the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. He is depicted by Bradley Cooper in the Clint Eastwood-directed movie depicting his life. It has raked in nearly $300 million at the box office since its December 2014 release and garnered six Academy Award nominations, including best picture and actor.
Littlefield, a husband and father of a young daughter, was a logistics manager at Eagle Labs, in Desoto. He and Kyle became fast friends before Kyle's bestselling book was published, when they met on a soccer field where both their kids played. The two shared a similar sense of humor and a passion for spending time with veterans, Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle, said Wednesday.
Routh used two pistols to fire six shots at Kyle and another seven rounds into Littlefield at Rough Creek Lodge's gun range. Both men received more than one "rapidly fatal injury" that left them with no chance of survival, the Chief Dallas County Medical Examiner told the jury.
Prosecutors say Routh prepared for the day of the killings by smoking marijuana, cigarettes, and drinking whiskey. An investigator who testified Friday showed jurors evidence of marijuana found in Routh's home and drug paraphernalia, including a pipe and bong.
Routh's uncle confirmed that his nephew smoked marijuana the morning of the killings. He said that he smoked it with him.
Prosecutors will resume presenting their case Monday morning in Stephenville.
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