War veteran awaits trial in killing of former Navy SEAL

Posted Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
A

Pick your most important local news story of 2013

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Dalworthington Gardens Police Chief Bill Waybourn plans to keep tabs on the capital murder trial of Iraq veteran Eddie Routh, the man accused of gunning down the U.S. military’s most lethal sniper, Chris Kyle, and his friend at an Erath County gun range in February.

Routh sits in an Erath County jail cell in Stephenville awaiting trial, which will likely begin early next year and draw national media attention.

Waybourn and Kyle were friends.

“I first got to know him back in ’09,” Waybourn said. “And we stayed friends. He planned to enter the police academy and become a rookie police officer in this department.”

Those plans were shattered on Feb. 2 when, authorities say, Routh, 26, killed Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a gun range at Rough Creek Lodge, an upscale resort outside of Glen Rose.

No court date has been scheduled yet as defense attorneys continue to pore over hundreds of documents and photos detailing a slaying that shocked the country, particularly since Kyle, 38, and his friend, Littlefield, 35, had taken Routh to the gun range thinking it would help him with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

Routh was initially scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 21 in 266th District Court on a capital murder charge, but pre-trial motions filed by defense attorneys Shay Isham of Stephenville and Warren St. John of Fort Worth postponed the proceedings.

St. John told the court that the defense team was reviewing nearly 6,000 pages of discovery documents and crime scene photos.

“I expect that this will go early next year,” St. John said this week. “We’ll be ready, but we just haven’t been given a date yet.”

From the first day he was booked into jail, Routh’s stay has been rocky. Jailers had to use a stun gun to subdue him when he became combative just hours after he was placed in his cell. He’s been on suicide watch, refused to take his medications and declined to see his family or his attorneys.

In June, Routh shattered his television and flooded his cell.

His actions in jail and the testimony and evidence that will be presented in the case will be used by PTSD researchers for further study of the disorder, experts say.

“PTSD is a brain condition,” said the Rev. Rita Nakashima Brock, one of the co-directors of the Soul Repair Center at TCU’s Brite Divinity School. The program was established to understand, research and treat “moral injuries” suffered by veterans.

“At times, you may think you’re back in a war zone,” Brock said.

A history of mental problems

Area police reports documented Routh’s mental problems well before the Feb. 2 killings at the gun range, which is west of Glen Rose and about 80 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

On Jan. 19, Dallas police responded to a “major disturbance call” in the 7600 block of Churchill Way involving Routh and a 33-year-old woman that ended with the Iraq veteran being taken to Green Oaks Psychiatric Hospital for a mental health evaluation.

On Sept. 2, 2012, Lancaster police officers responded to a report of a “major disturbance” in the 200 block of West Sixth Street, where Routh was threatening to kill himself and family members. He had left the scene and Lancaster police found him walking nearby. He smelled of alcohol and “Eddie was emotional and crying,” according to the report.

Police also noted that Routh — who told police he was a Marine and suffering from PTSD — was not wearing shoes or a shirt.

The Iraq veteran was taken to Green Oaks in Dallas for a mental evaluation.

As her son’s condition worsened, Jodi Leigh Routh, Eddie Routh’s mother, reached out to Kyle and asked him to help.

That’s when Kyle and Littlefield decided to take Routh to the gun range as a form of therapy.

At some point, authorities say Routh shot both Kyle and Littlefield. An employee found Kyle and Littlefield and attempted cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on them, according to a felony warrant. Several weapons, including semiautomatic rifles, semiautomatic handguns and revolvers, were found near the bodies.

After the shooting, Routh drove away from the range in Kyle’s truck and arrived at his sister and brother-in-law’s home in Midlothian and told them that he had killed two people, authorities said.

When questioned about the truck, Routh told his relatives that he had “traded his soul for a new truck,” according to the warrant. Routh told his relatives that he wanted to go to Oklahoma to avoid Texas authorities, the warrant stated.

He then drove to his Lancaster home. There, authorities conversed with him, but he managed to get into a vehicle and led them on a pursuit before his vehicle was disabled and he was arrested.

While Routh’s mental condition will no doubt play a role in the upcoming trial, both Waybourn and Kyle’s widow, Taya, are skeptical about the PTSD claims.

“Other people with PTSD are able to function and get through life,” Waybourn said. “I think an evil character comes out at times and you can always use some type of an excuse for why it came out.”

Taya Kyle, in an interview with KTVT-Channel 11, said that PTSD is not a justification for murder.

People with PTSD “work through their struggles, just like we work through our struggles. They are phenomenal people and it doesn’t change their character,” Taya Kyle said. “You’re not going to blame someone else, in my opinion, when you murder two people in cold blood.”

‘He loved the vets’

Kyle had more than 150 confirmed sniper kills, the most in U.S. military history, during four tours in Iraq. He was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars for valor and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.

After 10 years in the service, Kyle returned to Midlothian, where he lived in the Twin Creek development with his wife and their two children.

He helped create Craft International, a Dallas training and security company, and also authored the best-selling book American Sniper, which documented his career.

His funeral, attended by an estimated 7,000, was Feb. 11 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington and included bagpipers and emotional eulogies. The next day a procession took his body to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, where he was buried.

Waybourn hopes that, in the end, Kyle is remembered as a hero.

“He loved the vets,” Waybourn said. “He reached out to every veteran and just wanted to help them.”

This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives and the Stephenville Empire-Tribune.

Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763 Twitter: @mingoramirezjr

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?