Troubled Marine veteran Eddie Ray Routh lived next door to Lancaster police detective Jesse Chevera.
So when Chevera learned on the night of Feb. 2, 2013, that Routh was on the lam after killing Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle and another man at an upscale shooting range near Glen Rose, officers converged on his house.
Routh drove up in Kyle’s black Ford pickup.
“Eddie, I don’t want to hurt you,” Chevera told Routh, who had shut off the vehicle and cracked the window in the driveway of his home. “We all grew up together. Your parents are going to be hurt if we don’t get this thing resolved peacefully. Eddie. Eddie. Give me the keys.”
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But Routh did not give him the keys. Instead, after several minutes of negotiations, he sped away. But before he did, Routh made several nonsensical statements and a chilling admission.
“He told us that he had taken a couple of souls and he had some more souls to take,” said Lancaster Lt. Michael Smith, the supervisor on the scene.
On Thursday afternoon, jurors listened to the negotiations between Chevera and Routh — audio that was captured by the body camera of an officer standing nearby. They also viewed two dash-camera videos of the high-speed chase that started at Routh’s house in the 200 block of West Sixth Street and ended after the pickup died on Interstate 35E, just north of Interstate 20 in Dallas County.
Routh is on trial this week in Erath County in state district Judge Jason Cashon’s court, charged with capital murder for gunning down Chad Littlefield, 35, and Kyle, 38, whose life is chronicled in the movie American Sniper.
Loads of evidence
Kyle, whose body was found in a grassy area near the shooting platform at Rough Creek Lodge and Resort, was shot by a .45-caliber pistol six times, including in the jaw, side and back. Littlefield, whose body was found on the shooting platform, was shot with a 9 mm handgun seven times, including in the head, back and face, according to court testimony.
A large amount of ammunition — shell casings and guns including rifles, revolvers, and semi-automatic handguns — were found at the scene with the bodies, said Texas Ranger Michael Adcock, who spent hours helping collect and photograph evidence.
“We ran out of tents because we had so much evidence,” Adcock testified Thursday morning, referring to the triangular yellow markers used to identify evidence such as shell casings on the ground.
Defense attorneys Warren St. John, Tim Moore and R. Shay Isham are arguing that Routh, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Haiti, is not guilty by reason of insanity. They contend that Routh — who has had diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and psychosis — was suffering from a severe mental illness or defect at the time of the double slaying and did not know his conduct was wrong.
Prosecutors Alan Nash and Jane Starnes contend that Routh had been drinking and smoking marijuana laced with a substance, possibly formaldehyde or PCP, before Kyle and Littlefield picked him that day for a recreational outing to try and help him.
The prosecution doesn’t dispute that Routh was a troubled man suffering from mental illness but maintains that he knew that his conduct was wrong at the time of the shootings.
‘Feeding on my soul’
Later Thursday, jurors got more insight into Routh’s metal state after hearing the recorded negotiations between him and Chevera, who repeatedly pleads with Routh to get out of the pickup.
“I am making a decision to stay in the truck because my soul is on this side of the truck and so is my hide,” Routh says at one point.
Routh brings up the subject of guns, asking Chevera if they had guns and informing him that he did, too.
“We don’t want to show you our guns, and you don’t want to show us yours,” Chevera tells him.
Not long afterward, Routh tells him, “I want to go take a nap.”
Routh also asks whether the “apocalypse is upon us right now?” and says that he can feel people “feeding on my soul.”
At one point, he questions his own mental state.
“I don’t know if I’m going insane,” he said.
Editor’s note: Prosecutor Jane Starnes’ last name was incorrect in an earlier version of this report.