By Travis M. Smith—
Additional reporting by Bethann Coldiron
The trial of Eddie Ray Routh, the man accused of murdering ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle and best friend Chad Littlefield, began Monday morning shortly after 9:20 a.m. in the Donald R. Jones Justice Center in Stephenville. Littlefield would have been celebrating his 38th birthday today had it of not been for the events that occurred on Feb. 2, 2013.
Before the judge entered, Taya Kyle was seen with her arms crossed and eyes closed sitting alongside her father, and several of Chris’ relatives. Routh pleaded not guilty to both murders and was noticed taking notes throughout the morning session.
Prior to the jury entering the courtroom, the state presented the only new piece of evidence to be allowed into the proceedings. The autopsy of both Kyle and Littlefield was approved by the defense and allowed in as evidence by Cashon. The 12 jurors and 2 alternates entered shortly after. The jurors are allowed to take notes of evidence of the case but not of things witnesses may say when they are on the stand. The notes are also not to be shared with other jurors, only for their personal use when reflecting back on the case.
The prosecution was the first to make its opening statement and District Attorney Alan Nash told the jury to “hear the evidence and let it guide you.” He stated that their job was to decide if “this defendant intentionally caused the death of Chad Hutson Littlefield and that this defendant intentionally caused the death of Christopher Scott Kyle.”
Kyle and Littefield drove to Routh’s house in Lancaster and picked him up to take him to Rough Creek Lodge, located in Glen Rose. Routh’s mother was a teacher’s aid at the school that the Kyle children attended, and asked Kyle to help her son.
“We will never know what happened, what was said in that drive to Rough Creek,” said Nash, “but three hours later staff went to check on the men and Kyle’s truck was gone.”
Nash was the first to reveal the injuries the two sustained on the long-gun range designed by Kyle at the Rough Creek Lodge in Glen Rose. Littlefield was shot four times in the back, once in the hand, once in the top of the head, and once in the face by a 9mm Sig Sauer p226 MK5 Navy issued handgun with an anchor crest above the handle that police later found fully loaded in Kyle’s truck that Routh was driving. Kyle was shot five times in the back and side, and one time in the side of the head by a .45 caliber pistol. Found above Kyle’s head was a .45 cal long-pistol with six empty shell casings inside.
Nash continued by detailing where Routh went after the incident. Routh supposedly fled the scene after he shot the two men, and drove to his uncles house where he showed his uncle “his new truck and guns.” He also stopped at Taco Bell and had a burrito before going to his sister’s house. He showed her the acquisitions, and when asked how he obtained them he told her “I just murdered two men.” She immediately called the authorities and Routh told her he was going to flee to Oklahoma.
After picking up his dog from his house in Lancaster, he returned a short time later to find several police cars and officers asking him to exit the vehicle. Routh then led police on a high-speed chase north on I-35E towards Oklahoma. After being apprehended, Routh confessed to killing the two men and using wet marijuana that morning. According to Nash, “wet marijuana” refers to marijuana that has been soaked in a chemical substance such as formaldehyde before being used.
Nash reiterated that the core issues that they needed to focus on are “did he intentionally or knowingly cause the death of these two mean and did he know what he was doing was wrong?”
The prosecution also noted that the “evidence is going to show you that the defendant has a history of multiple mental illnesses.”
Tim Moore of Ft. Worth took his turn to address the jury on behalf of the defense after Nash finished. Moore started by labeling Routh as a “troubled veteran,” and that at the time of the alleged incident that Routh “thought in his psychosis state that it was either him or them” that had to be killed at the Rough Creek Lodge that day.
“Folks will tell you that his experience in Haiti probably affected him more than his experiences in Iraq,” said Moore on Routh. Routh is a 2006 graduate of Lancaster High in Texas, and served mainly in the army during his time with the US Navy. After returning home, Routh’s family saw him as a “changed man” and “had a drinking problem and smoked too much marijuana,” said Moore.
Routh had been admitted to the VA and Green Oaks rehabilitation center five different times from July 2011 to January 25, 2013. The last psychotic episode that required Routh to be detained by the authorities and readmitted into Green Oaks occurred on Jan. 19 at his girlfriend’s apartment. Routh was holding his girlfriend and her roommate hostage with a sword when her roommate sent a text to the authorities for help.
Judy Routh, mother of Eddie Ray, begged the VA not to release him this time, but was reassured that he would be fine if he took his medications, Moore said.
On Feb 2, 2013, Moore said that Routh and his uncle may have “smoked a little marijuana and had a little alcohol but this was in the morning.” Moore said that with Routh riding in the backseat of Kyle’s Ford F-250, Kyle and Littlefield made the following text message exchange:
“This dude is straight up nuts,” Kyle texted to Littlefield. “He’s right behind me, watch my six,” responded Littlefield.
The defense is going to present medical records, accounts from friends and family as well as recommendations from board certified forensic psychologists. ”They [the forensic psychologists] are going to tell you in their opinion that at the time of this tragedy that Eddie Ray Routh was insane,” Moore said.
The defense also noted the prosecutions claim that not-guilty by reason of insanity is a narrow window to prove innocence, however, Moore said that he did not see that window as being so small.
Court was recessed after the defense finished its opening statement and the first block of witnesses were sworn in, Taya Kyle and Judy Littlefield were among the 12 sworn in.
Cashon reconvened the court at 10:49 a.m. The judge began by acknowledging that Taya and Judy were the only two witnesses allowed to remain in the courtroom. Taya, 40, was Kyle’s wife at the time of his death and was the first to be called to the witness stand.
Originally from Oregon, Taya had to fight back tears when asked to state her relation to Kyle and describe how the two met. “I’m not nervous, I’m just emotional,” Taya said.
“Yes, he was good at what he did,” Taya continued, “although Chris always said that his brother was a better shot than he was. His job was to do over watch. If any of our soldiers or allies were in danger it was his job to take out the threat. Doing sniper’s work is an extension of one’s heart.”
When asked if Chris was a quick-draw, Taya responded with “he was an incredible fast draw.” She also told of a time when Chris was deployed that a wall was blown down by explosives leaving him and a fellow soldier facing two insurgents. Kyle drew his side arm and shot both insurgents before either of the two US soldiers were injured.
Before Kyle got out of the military, he had a goal to start Craft International, a company that would train police, military personnel and civilians on hand-to-hand combat and the proper use of military-grade rifles. Taya said his goal was “to put more tools in their toolbox.” It was this business endeavor that led to Chris’ relationship with Rough Creek Lodge.
Rough Creek Lodge is a more than a gun range, as Taya pointed out. They have a petting zoo, swimming pools, fishing holes, tennis courts and a fossil dig site. Chris was occasionally given complimentary rooms after he helped designed the long gun and tactical gun range, and the family would go there as “they couldn’t afford it otherwise,” Taya said. The range was built to his safety requirements, and he made sure it was far enough away from the family activities to not disturb them, Taya noted.
Taya was overcome with emotions again when she was presented with seven photos in which she needed to identify the people or things in them. The photos consisted of Chris with his parents, Wayne and Debbie in 2005, Chris, Taya and their son on the day Taya found out she was pregnant with their daughter, Chris hiding Easter eggs in April 2012, the entrance to Rough Creek Lodge, Chris and Chad in Port Aransas and the backend of Chris’ black truck.
Chris first learned of Routh and his mental issues after taking his children to school, where Jodi Routh was employed. Taya learned of his discussions with Mrs. Routh after finding two notes, a yellow hall pass and a sheet of notebook paper, in the couple’s closet where Chris often emptied his pockets. On each note was written in pen – Eddie Routh – (hm) (972) 219-5328 and Jodi Routh – (cell) (469) 853-2800. Finding the notes was the first Taya had ever heard of Eddie, and she said that up until the first appearance in court she had never seen him.
According to Taya Kyle, Feb. 2, 2013 unfolded as follows:
The Kyles began that day like most weekends and took their children to the soccer fields for the day’s slate of games. Taya knew that after the games, Chris, Chad and Routh would be going to Rough Creek and that Chris had chosen it because of the quiet and serenity it offered. Taya planned to take their daughter and a friend to a Build-a-Bear workshop, her daughter had a gift card she needed to use, and the couple would meet up after.
The last time the Chris and Taya saw each other was at their home around noon. The two were running around the house getting everything for their day together, Chris putting guns and ammunition in his truck and Taya gathering the kids’ belongings. They quickly hugged and kissed each other, “said we loved each other and left.” Taya had to compose herself multiple times when retelling this portion of the couple’s day.
She later called Chris on the phone around midafternoon, to check-in and ask if he wanted to have dinner with some neighbors to celebrate one of their birthdays. Chris was short with his answers as she asked if he wanted to go out and she characterized him as being irritated. The two planned to meet back at their house at 5 or 6 that evening.
Chad’s wife called Taya around 5 p.m. and asked if she had heard from them. Having not spoken with Chris in a couple hours, she decided to call him again and did not receive an answer. She then sent a text, and after not receiving a response began to become concerned as Chris would “always check-in to make sure she knew he was OK.”
Taya was gathering the children and their things to load into the car for the evening dinner party when Chris’ friend from high school, Mark Triebly, pulled up to the Kyle’s house in his squad car. Triebly is a police officer in Midlothian and although he would stop by from time to time, Taya began to put together the pieces. The following exchange was started by Taya:
“Hey Mark what’s up?”
“Have you seen Chris’ truck?”
“No. I haven’t”
“I think Chris has been hurt,” Triebly said.
Taya re-entered their home and asked a friend to come pick-up her children, not wanting to ruin her children’s fun-filled day. Her son had already told her that it “was the best day of my life.”
She then called one of her neighbors who was not going to the dinner party, and asked her to come over and to not tell anyone. After her kids left for their sleepover, Taya then called her mother.
Taya began to receive numerous text and phone calls about this same time, and did not answer her phone until the mother of one of Chris’ SEAL brothers, who was killed in action, called. Moments later, Taya received a call from Triebly while she was standing in the kitchen, and as she walked into the hallway he told her that Chris had been killed.
Taya chose to tell the children of their father’s death the next morning after they returned from their sleepover.
Court was set to reconvene at 1:05 p.m. after breaking for lunch. The second half of the day will posted either later Wednesday night, or early Thursday morning.