STEPHENVILLE, Texas (AP) — A police officer told a Texas jury Thursday, February 12 that a former Marine charged in the deaths of two men, including “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle, told him he had “taken a couple of souls” and had more to take.
A police video displayed for the jury showed officers in Lancaster, near Dallas, trying to coax Eddie Ray Routh from a truck in the hours after famed Navy SEAL Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were found dead at a shooting range in February 2013.
“He told us he’d taken a couple of souls and he had more souls to take,” Lancaster police Lt. Michael Smith said Thursday, February 12 of Routh.
Defense attorneys have said Routh, 27, was insane when Kyle and Littlefield took him to a shooting range to provide support and camaraderie. Routh believed the men planned to kill him, his attorneys say. Routh faces life in prison without parole if convicted.
The case has drawn intense interest, largely because of Kyle’s memoir, “American Sniper,” about serving four tours in Iraq. The Oscar-nominated film based on the book has grossed nearly $300 million.
Officers testified Thursday, February 12 that hours after the bodies were discovered, Routh returned to his home in Lancaster, driving Kyle’s pickup. Officers spoke with him as he sat in the pickup, but he refused to leave the vehicle.
Routh is heard in the police video heard asking for his parents. Police eventually get them on the phone and he briefly talks to them.
At different points in the video, Routh made comments including, “I didn’t sleep a wink last night at all,” ”I don’t know if I’m going insane,” and, “Is this about hell walking on earth right now?”
R. Shay Isham, one of Routh’s defense attorneys, brought up parts of the audio that were difficult to hear on the video. Routh asked at one point if the apocalypse “was on them right now,” Isham said.
Authorities say Routh had earlier driven to his sister’s house, admitted to the killings and told his sister that “people were sucking his soul.”
While two officers tried to talk Routh out of the truck, two others “low crawled” to the back of the vehicle and placed spikes on the back tires, Lancaster police Officer Flavio Salazar said. Routh sped away, though, prompting a chase at speeds of about 100 mph.
At one point in the chase, police rammed the vehicle. Finally, it came to a stop, disabled on the road. Police later found out the spike strips had been misplaced and didn’t cause the tires to deflate.
Police video showed Routh emerging with his hands up and sinking to the ground.
Routh’s mother had asked Kyle, whose wartime exploits were depicted in his memoir, to help her son overcome personal troubles that at least twice led him to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Routh had been a small arms technician who served in Iraq and was deployed to earthquake-ravaged Haiti before leaving the Marines in 2010.
Prosecutors contend that a history of mental illness should not absolve Routh in the deaths.
Texas Ranger Michael Adcock testified earlier Thursday, February 12 that Kyle and Littlefield were armed at the time of the shootings but it did not appear the weapons they carried were ever removed from their holsters.
Chief Dallas County Medical Examiner Jeffrey Barnard testified about the men’s wounds, saying several of the shots on both men would have been fatal. Kyle was shot six times; Littlefield was shot seven.
No illegal drugs or alcohol were found in either Kyle or Littlefield’s body.
Testimony is set to resume Friday, February 13.
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