'American Sniper' Chris Kyle and friend Chad Littlefield were shot multiple times at gun range near Glen Rose

Posted Sunday, Feb. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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STEPHENVILLE -- Retired Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the U.S. military's most lethal sniper, and his friend, Chad Littlefield were shot multiple times at a gun range at Rough Creek Lodge west of Glen Rose, Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said Sunday afternoon.

A semi-automatic handgun found at suspect Eddie Ray Routh's home in Lancaster might have been the weapon Routh used Saturday to kill them, Bryant said.

After shooting the men, Routh, 25, tried to flee from police who tracked him down to his home. Neighbors said they watched as Routh shut off the engine of Kyle's large black Ford pickup, which was nearly surrounded by armed officers, including a Lancaster police detective who lives next door. Then Routh turned the key and sped from the home on West 6th Street.

"He burned rubber and left in a cloud of black smoke," said Carolyn Greathouse, 57, who lives across the street. "None of the officers, including a policewoman with a shotgun, fired on the suspect as he escaped," Greathouse said.

Routh was later stopped by a stripe of spikes and was arrested about 9 p.m. He was being held Sunday night in the Erath County Jail on two counts of capital murder and $3 million bond, authorities said.

Jodi Leigh Routh, the suspect's mother, had reached out to Kyle to ask him to help her son, said Clint Burgess, a Tarrant County constable and Kyle's friend. Kyle did not know Eddie Routh, but knew his mother, Burgess said in an email from New Orleans.

"She was worried about her son and asked Chris if he could help him overcome PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)," Burgess said.

Kyle, 38, and Littlefield, 35, had taken Routh to the range at the posh Rough Creek Lodge near Glen Rose, said Travis Cox, the director of a nonprofit Kyle helped found. Littlefield was Kyle's neighbor and "workout buddy" in Midlothian, Cox told The Associated Press on Sunday.

"What I know is Chris and a gentleman, Chad Littlefield, took a veteran out shooting who was struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you know, give him a helping hand, and he turned the gun on both of them, killing them," Cox said.

Routh's immediate family could not be reached Sunday. But an aunt, Sundae Hughes of Cedar Hill, said the family was trying to "gather it all in."

"My thoughts and prayers go first out to the families who lost loved ones. And my thoughts and prayers go out to Eddie's mom and dad, Jodi and Raymond." Hughes said before breaking down in tears.

Kyle, who co-authored the best-selling memoir, American Sniper, had the most confirmed sniper kills in U.S. military history, over 150, which he racked up during four tours in Iraq. After 10 years in the service, Kyle returned to Midlothian, where he lived in the Twin Creek development with his wife, Taya and their two children. He helped create Craft International, a Dallas training and security company.

At a news conference Sunday, authorities said the three men entered Rough Creek Lodge, a remote gun range about 77 miles southwest of Fort Worth between Glen Rose and Hico, at 3:15 p.m. Saturday.

"There were no witnesses. No one heard any type of an argument," Bryant said.

At 5 p.m., a hunting guide discovered two men near the range who appeared to have been shot. The guide called 911.

By then, Routh had driven away from the resort in Kyle's black Ford pickup, which he drove to Midlothian.

"He stopped and told his sister and brother-in-law what had happened," Bryant said. "He left Midlothian and drove to his home in Lancaster. They [his sister and brother-in-law] notified authorities."

Authorities located Routh at his Lancaster home about 8 p.m. Saturday.

"He made his way to a vehicle and drove away," said DPS trooper Lonny Haschel. "That started a pursuit."

Just before 9 p.m. Saturday, authorities used spikes on Interstate 35E and Camp Wisdom Road, where they disabled the vehicle Routh was driving. He was arrested without incident, police said.

Routh, who is unemployed, was returned to Erath County late Saturday.

"He's in a cell by himself," the sheriff said Sunday. "He will be watched closely."

Authorities offered no motive for the slayings.

"I don't know if anyone knows why," Bryant said. "The suspect may have had some mental illness. He was a Marine for four years. There may have been some complications from that but we don't know for sure."

A hearing is pending for Routh in Erath County, said Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash.

The U.S. military confirmed Sunday that Routh was a corporal in the Marines from June 2006 to January 2010. He was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010. His current duty status is listed as Reserve.

The sheriff said Kyle and Littlefield were friends.

Capt. Jason Upshaw with the Erath County Sheriff's Office said the weapon found in Routh's home was being examined by investigators to determine if it was used to kill Kyle and Littlefield. He said ballistics tests were incomplete Sunday, but authorities believe it was the gun that was used Saturday.

Upshaw declined to say if any other weapons were found in Routh's home.

Lancaster neighbor Daniel Elizondo said he knew Routh had served in the Marines, but he never talked about his war service. When Elizondo talked to Routh about his nephew's battle experiences, Routh would nod and agree, but wouldn't volunteer anything about himself.

"Eddie didn't seem like the person who could do something like this," said Elizondo, who operates a Richardson auto paint and body business. Routh lived alone but had a girlfriend, he said.

"He socialized with us, was easy going, came to our barbecues. I have just no idea what might have brought this on."

Routh did freelance carpentry work and recently had asked Elizondo to apply camouflage colors to his Volkswagen Beetle. The car, which is bright red with large black polka dots and a Marine Corps sticker on the rear window, was parked in the driveway of the Lancaster home on Sunday. Woodworking tools could be seen inside.

Elizondo said Kyle, wearing a camouflage cap, pulled up to his house in a large black Ford pickup about 12:30 p.m. Saturday and asked for Eddie Routh. Elizondo said he pointed to the modest beige single-story frame home a few doors down the road.

New York writer Jim DeFelice, who co-authored American Sniper, said Kyle had a history of reaching out to disabled veterans. He said Kyle arranged outings to Texas ranches to show the vets that despite their injuries, they were still capable of having a life.

"It's terrible, but there's stuff you can do," DeFelice said Kyle told a group of wounded warriors. "And I'm going to speak really slowly because there's some Army guys here," he joked.

American Sniper became a major success, hitting No. 1 on the New York Times bestsellers' list where it remained for seven weeks.

Kyle took none of the royalties from the book, according to his publisher, William Morrow, and DeFelice.

DeFelice said Kyle donated his royalties to the families of two Navy Seals, Marc Lee and Ryan Job, who fought alongside him in a 2006 battle that led to their deaths.

Sharyn Rosenblum, a spokeswoman for William Morrow, said 850,000 copies of the hardbound, paperback and e-book versions had been released. She declined to disclose actual sales. DeFelice said Kyle's royalties "amounted to a lot of money, a lot of money."

"Chris was a hero as much on the home front as on the battlefield, a man who dedicated his life in recent years to supporting veterans, and donated the proceeds of American Sniper to the families of his fallen friends," said Peter Hubbard, Morrow's executive editor.

"Chris would never keep any money for appearances or book signings. It all went to others," said Burgess, a Mansfield-based constable.

Burgess said he and Kyle planned to work security together at the Super Bowl on Sunday, but logistical issues prevented Kyle from traveling. He said his friend always wore a smile and enjoyed a good laugh.

Burgess said Kyle told him he planned to attend a police academy and start a career in law enforcement.

"He really wanted to be a cop and continue serving his country," Burgess said.

Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718

Twitter: @bshlachter

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