Four months after the slayings of legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and his best friend, Chad Littlefield, capital murder suspect Eddie Ray Routh spoke with a reporter from The New Yorker.
“There was a smell in the air that morning, you know,” Routh told the reporter in a recorded jailhouse phone call that was played for jurors Tuesday during Routh’s trial in Stephenville. “It smelled like s–t. I had to take care of business, so I took care of business and I got in the truck and left. I f–ed up, you know.”
Later, reporter Nicholas Schmidle asked Routh whether he thought he had to kill Kyle and Littlefield – or they would kill him.
“That is how I was feeling that day,” Routh replied. “… It smelled like cologne, you know. It smelled like sweet cologne. … I smelled love and hate. You can smell it when it’s in the air, you know. I mean, don’t you smell it? You are out there on the East Coast.”
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Moments after jurors heard that call, Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash and Assistant Attorney General Jane Starnes rested their case.
Over the past five days, prosecutors have called about two dozen witnesses in their effort to prove that Routh knew his actions were wrong when he gunned down Kyle, 38, and Littlefield, 35, on Feb. 2, 2013, during what was supposed to be a therapeutic outing to a shooting range at Rough Creek Lodge, an 11,000-acre resort south of Glen Rose.
Kyle was shot six times with a .45-caliber weapon and Littlefield was shot seven times with a 9 mm handgun. Afterward, Routh reloaded the 9 mm and fled in Kyle’s black Ford pickup.
As the men lay dead in rural Erath County, Routh stopped at the homes of two relatives and then at a Taco Bell, where he bought two bean burritos before returning to his house in Lancaster. There, he led Lancaster police on a 6-mile chase that ended when Kyle’s pickup died on Interstate 35E near Wheatland Road in south Dallas, according to testimony.
After his arrest, Routh was placed in the back of a patrol car, where a camera was rolling. At one point, an officer asked how he was doing.
“I’ve been so paranoid and schizophrenic today,” Routh said, a videotaped response that was played for the jury Tuesday. “I don’t know what to think. I don’t even know what to make of the world right now. I don’t know if I am insane.”
Defense attorneys Warren St. John, Tim Moore and R. Shay Isham are arguing that Routh is not guilty by reason of insanity – a defense that requires them to prove 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.
On Tuesday afternoon, the defense began calling witnesses to bolster its contention that Routh, a Marine veteran, was in the grips of a psychotic episode when he opened fire on Kyle and Littlefield.
Routh’s mother, Jodi, testified that before joining the Marines, Routh had no mental health issues. When he returned after four years of duty – including tours in Iraq and Haiti primarily working in the armory – he was no longer “happy-go-lucky” and was paranoid and suicidal.
Jodi Routh testified that her son had been in and out of Veterans Affairs hospitals and had been released from treatment just days before the slayings. The Midlothian educator said that in the beginning of 2013, she approached Kyle when he dropped his kids off at school.
“I shared with him that Eddie was having trouble and that the VA had diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Jodi Routh testified. “He said he understood that because he also had post-traumatic stress, and he said he would love to do everything and anything in his power to help my son.”
Afterward, Kyle hugged her, she said.
Testimony will resume Wednesday.
Because prosecutors waived the death penalty, Routh would receive an automatic life sentence with no possibility for parole if convicted of capital murder. If he is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed to a state mental institution for treatment for an unspecified period.