Crime

Routh believed Littlefield, Kyle were ‘pig assassins,’ psychiatrist says

Eddie Ray Routh, right, enters the courtroom Thursday morning behind defense attorney J. Warren St. John during Routh's capital murder trial in Stephenville.
Eddie Ray Routh, right, enters the courtroom Thursday morning behind defense attorney J. Warren St. John during Routh's capital murder trial in Stephenville. AP

Eddie Ray Routh believed the government was out to get him, his neighbor was in the Mexican mafia and his co-workers were cannibals.

“He began to think they were half-pig and half-man — a pig hybrid,” said Dr. Mitchell H. Dunn, a psychiatrist who evaluated Routh while he was awaiting trial in the Erath County Jail.

“He saw other people around him as hybrid people.”

He said Routh’s delusions worsened over time. And on Feb. 2, 2013 — the day Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield picked him up to go sport shooting — Routh had become schizophrenic, Dunn said.

“There was something really wrong with Eddie Ray Routh on the day of the offense, and that something wrong was mental disease,” Dunn said.

Dunn was called as an expert witness Thursday by defense attorneys Warren St. John, Tim Moore and R. Shay Isham, who are trying to convince the jury that Routh was insane when he gunned down Kyle and Littlefield at a gun range near Glen Rose.

To find Routh not guilty by reason of insanity, the jury must decide that he was suffering from a severe mental disease or defect at the time of the slayings and did not know his conduct was wrong.

Prosecutors Alan Nash and Jane Starnes don’t dispute that Routh was troubled but maintain that he knew his actions were wrong when he shot Littlefield, 35, seven times with a 9 mm handgun and Kyle, 38, six times with a .45-caliber weapon before fleeing in Kyle’s pickup. They have suggested that his emotional problems were caused or exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse.

Delusions, psychotic disorder

Earlier Thursday, defense attorneys had planned to call Charles Overstreet, a Tarrant County College psychology professor and former Army major who assesses the mental health of veterans accused of crimes. Like Dunn, Overstreet interviewed Routh in jail and was prepared to give his opinion on his mental state.

But state District Judge Jason Cashon granted prosecutors’ request to disqualify Overstreet after he said he doesn’t have a physician’s license and doesn’t diagnose mental disorders.

However, Cashon said that Dunn, a forensic psychiatrist at Terrell State Hospital who also has a private practice, was qualified to testify as an expert.

Dunn said he reviewed police reports, all of Routh’s medical records, videos, crime scene photos and witness statements. He also interviewed Routh for more than six hours.

“That is longer than what I usually spend with a defendant,” Dunn testified.

Dunn said that Routh’s mental health had been deteriorating for some time and that at the time of the slayings, Routh didn’t know his conduct was wrong. He said Routh’s symptoms started in July 2011, when he was first admitted to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Dallas with delusions.

“He came in complaining that he had a tapeworm and thought he was wasting away,” Dunn said.

Routh was diagnosed with psychotic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Five days after being released, he was hospitalized again, Dunn said.

Routh had two more stays in a psychiatric hospital — in September 2012 after he threatened to kill himself and his family, and in January 2013 after he armed himself with a sword and refused to let his girlfriend and her roommate out of their apartment.

“He was paranoid someone was trying to hurt his girlfriend and was paranoid about the government,” Dunn said.

‘Pig assassins’

After Routh was last released from the hospital, about a week before the killings, he was consumed by thoughts of pig-human hybrids and felt as if “pigs were taking over the Earth,” Dunn said.

Dunn said Routh told him that on the ride to the range that day, Kyle and Littlefield hardly spoke to him.

“He had a big pile of guns next to him, and he was feeling pretty nervous about that,” Dunn testified. “He said it felt weird to do firearms with a group he hadn’t met before. He said he was still on his pig agenda. He began to think to himself that this might be a one-way trip.”

By the time they arrived at the range, Dunn said, Routh was anxious and paranoid.

“He began to think that Mr. Kyle and Mr. Littlefield were some type of pig assassins — hybrid pigs sent here kill people,” Dunn said.

Dunn said Routh’s paranoia increased when Littlefield didn’t join in the target shooting.

“He said Mr. Littlefield wasn’t shooting at all, which he said seemed ‘totally odd,’” Dunn said. “He told me he felt like he was in danger and that something was going to happen.”

Routh said he shot Littlefield and then Kyle, Dunn testified. Afterward, he saw Littlefield “twitching around,” so he shot him in the head.

Dunn said Routh told him that he felt relieved and that, since the keys were in Kyle’s truck, he took it.

“He said he should have called the police from the range, that would have been the logical thing to do,” Dunn testified.

Routh repeatedly told him that he “did what he had to do” when he killed Littlefield and Kyle, Dunn said.

“He thought he was going to die if he didn’t take care of business and kill them first,” Dunn said. “He defended himself — in his mind.”

On cross-examination, Starnes pointed out that Routh reloaded a gun, fled the scene and led police on a chase — actions that suggest he knew his conduct was wrong.

She also mentioned a number of statements by Routh that seem to indicate he knew his actions were wrong, including “I just shot two guys; that’s terrible” and “It’s a pretty s----- thing to do, to kill someone.”

After Dunn’s testimony, the defense rested its case. The trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Friday. Prosecutors are expected to call rebuttal witnesses, including another mental-health expert.

@melodymlanier

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