Crime

Routh convicted, sentenced in slaying of Kyle, Littlefield

Former Marine Cpl. Eddie Ray Routh, center, was convicted Tuesday night of capital murder in the slayings of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield. The Erath County jury deliberated about two hours before returning the verdict about 9 p.m.
Former Marine Cpl. Eddie Ray Routh, center, was convicted Tuesday night of capital murder in the slayings of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield. The Erath County jury deliberated about two hours before returning the verdict about 9 p.m. The Dallas Morning News

After hearing nine days of testimony, an Erath County jury deliberated for just 2 ½ hours Tuesday night before convicting Eddie Ray Routh of capital murder for killing legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield.

Routh, 27, stood stoically next to his defense team when state District Judge Jason Cashon read the verdict about 9:20 p.m. Because prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty, Routh received an automatic life sentence with no possibility for parole.

His defense attorneys had asked the jury to find him not guilty by reason of insanity. If the jury had agreed with that, he would have been committed to a state mental institution.

After the verdict was read, Kyle’s stepfather, Jerry Richardson, and Littlefield’s father, Don Littlefield, addressed Routh.

“Because of you and your irresponsible choices, we lost a great son, brother, father, husband and uncle on Feb. 2, 2013,” Richardson said. “You took the lives of two heroes — men who tried to be a friend to you. You became an American disgrace.”

Don Littlefield told Routh that although Chad was not in the military, he honored and served veterans.

“He was trying to help you,” Don Littlefield said.

He told Routh that, although they are devastated by their loss, they will not remain angry, bitter or resentful because that would “bind us to you.”

“You confessed that you did not know his name when you brutally murdered him,” Don Littlefield continued. “You will have the rest of your wasted life, each and every day, to remember his name. Let me remind you. His name was Chad Littlefield.

“C-h-a-d L-i-t-t-l-e-f-i-e-l-d.”

After the courtroom cleared, Littlefield’s mother, Judy, addressed the media outside the courthouse.

“We’ve waited two years for God to get justice for us on behalf of our son and, as always, God has proved to be faithful,” she said. “We are so thrilled that we have the verdict that we have tonight.”

Final arguments

The jury heard nine days of testimony from more than 30 witnesses. On Tuesday, they heard lengthy and emotional closing arguments.

At one point, Kyle’s widow, Taya, stormed out of the courtroom, apparently angered by something a defense attorney said.

During his final argument, Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash said it was time for Routh’s “deep well of excuses for violent criminal behavior to come to an end.”

“The guy is a doper,” Nash said. “He won’t stay off dope. We are talking about hard-core cannabis abuse.”

Nash said Routh’s “true colors” came out on the day of the shootings.

“Ladies and gentleman, you have learned a lot about what the defendant is capable of,” Nash said. “You learned that he is capable of gunning down two people in the back. You learned that he is capable of executing a man while he is down and you learned that he is capable of dreaming up excuses to get his hide out of trouble at a convenient time.

“He wasn’t one bit sorry for what he did. You know why? Because he knew it was wrong.”

Defense attorneys Warren St. John, Tim Moore and Shay Isham argued that Routh was not guilty by reason of insanity — a contention that required them to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that Routh was suffering from a severe mental disease or defect at the time of the slayings and did not know his conduct was wrong. The defense team maintained that Routh was schizophrenic and believed that Kyle and Littlefield were “pig hybrids” and that he had to kill them before they killed him.

In their final summation, the defense attorneys lambasted the prosecution’s suggestion that Routh was intoxicated and experiencing “cannabis-induced psychosis” at the time of the slayings, not schizophrenia. They said Routh’s actions after the slayings — including stopping to get two bean burritos — show that he didn’t know his conduct was wrong.

“He didn’t know his conduct was wrong because he went to Taco Bell,” St. John said. “It sounds silly but it’s true. Why would a man who just killed someone go and get something to eat?

“He killed those men because he had a delusion. He believed in his mind that that they were going to kill him. He was not intoxicated, he was psychotic.”

‘Crazy don’t run’

Routh, 27, was accused of fatally shooting Littlefield and Kyle on Feb. 2, 2013, at sport shooting range at Rough Creek Lodge, a luxury resort southwest of Glen Rose. Littlefield and Kyle had taken Routh — a troubled Marine veteran whom they had never met — to the range to try to bond with him and help him cope with civilian life.

During the two-week trial, Nash and Jane Starnes, an assistant Texas attorney general maintained that Routh’s mental problems were a result of chronic marijuana abuse and suggested that Routh claimed mental illness every time he got into trouble to avoid going to jail. They suggested that on the day of the slayings, Routh had been drinking and smoking marijuana and felt slighted by Littlefield and Kyle, who didn’t shake his hand and barely spoke to him on the drive to Rough Creek Lodge.

“There is the motive right there,” Starnes told the jury during her closing argument. “They got killed for not talking to this guy.”

Starnes told the jury that Routh’s actions were deliberate, calculated and cold. She reminded the jury that Routh shot Kyle with .45-caliber pistol six times, including in the jaw, side and back.

“This awesome, skilled marksman survived four tours of duty in Iraq and he died face-down in the dirt at a luxury resort shooting range,” Starnes said.

Littlefield was shot several times with a 9 mm handgun, including twice in the back and then once in the head, face and hand.

“As Chad lay dying, he went around and he shot him in the top of the head and the face — not to prevent him from getting him up but to finish him off,” Starnes said. “He didn’t just want Chad dead. He wanted Chad dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead.”

Starnes told the jury that Routh’s actions and statements after the slayings show that he knew his conduct was wrong — including reloading the 9mm gun used to kill Littlefield, fleeing the scene and leading police on a high speed chase.

“Crazy don’t run,” she said. “They stay there at the scene.”

‘Never saw it coming’

Earlier Tuesday, a shooting reconstruction expert testified that Kyle never saw it coming.

But Littlefield may have realized his fate, Howard Ryan said.

Ryan testified that Littlefield was shot twice in the back and dropped to one or both knees. Afterward, Ryan testified, his killer shot him in the face and in the top of the head while he was on his knees or after he fell backward and was lying flat on his back.

“He would be looking right up at the shooter,” Ryan, of Morris County, N.J., told the jury of 10 men and two women.

The gunshot wounds to Kyle, meanwhile, were concentrated to the upper right side of his body.

“He is struck by gunfire and all the gunfire is delivered by one episode, one event,” Ryan testified. “It is very obvious that he never saw it coming.”

@melodymlanier

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