People close to Eddie Ray Routh took the witness stand in his defense Wednesday for the Feb. 2, 2013 killings of American Sniper Chris Kyle and friend Chad Littlefield. Routh’s former girlfriend testified that he proposed marriage to her the night before the murders and she said yes.
Jennifer Weed, 26, said their relationship that started in April 2012 was marked by many episodes of Routh’s troubling behavior with threats of suicide and paranoia about demons and the government.
Weed said she was upset with Routh for his drinking, marijuana and tobacco use and wanted him to stop. But she also described situations where she though he had not been using drugs or alcohol and his behavior was still extremely troubling. Routh was hospitalized for mental health care several times in the fall of 2012.
Weed described a situation in mid-January of 2013 when Routh was visibly shaking, sweating through his shirt and acting violently.
“He was very upset with me, calling me a crack whore, calling me a demon,” Weed said. “He had never talked to me that way.”
Routh, 27, wound up in the Dallas Veterans Affairs hospital after that and was released on Jan. 23, 2013.
On the night of Feb. 1, 2013, Weed said Routh got down on his knee, asked her to marry him and she accepted. But the next morning they fought again over his tobacco use and she left before Routh went on a planned outing that day with Kyle.
Kyle and Littlefield were found shot to death at the Rough Creek Lodge shooting range near Glen Rose.
Routh’s sister, Laura Blevins, told the jury that Routh changed after returning from service in the U.S. Marines. She had decided before the February 2013 murders that she did not want Routh around her daughter at her house because he was always talking nonsense.
“He would go on a tangent with my child around and I didn’t want her to be subjected to that,” Blevins said.
The evening of the murders, Routh visited her Midlothian home driving Kyle’s pickup truck.
“He said he took their souls before they could take his,” Blevins said. “I asked what he meant by that and he said, ‘they were out to get him.’”
Blevins said she told Routh to turn himself in but he refused and said he was going to Oklahoma.
“I love you, but I hate your demons,” Blevins said she told her brother.
The sister said she called police which eventually led to Routh’s arrest later that night.
Routh’s lawyers claim he was insane at the time of the murders, unable to tell right from wrong. Prosecutors blame his use of alcohol and illegal drugs for his impairment. District Attorney Alan Nash is seeking a life prison sentence. It could be sometime next week before the jury is asked to decide.
Court adjourned mid-afternoon Wednesday, but the judge told jurors to expect long sessions on Thursday and Friday.
Routh Defense Has 1st Full Day of Testimony
Defense attorneys will present their first full day of testimony in the trial of a former Marine accused of killing "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle and another man.
Attorneys for Eddie Ray Routh have the floor before a Texas jury Wednesday. Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday, and defense attorneys called as their first witness Routh's mother, who testified that she did not know after asking Kyle to help her troubled son that they would be going to a shooting range.
Kyle, the famed former Navy SEAL sniper who served four tours in Iraq, and his friend Chad Littlefield were shot dead at the range in February 2013.
Under cross-examination, prosecutors asked Jodi Routh if she regretted not telling Kyle of threats Routh had made to kill himself and his family. "I was just looking for help for my son," she responded.
Eddie Ray Routh has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys are mounting an insanity defense. Family members have said he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq and in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
The trial has drawn intense interest, partly because of an Oscar-nominated film based on Kyle's memoir.
Here is a look at key points in the case:
On Feb. 2, 2013, Kyle, Littlefield and Routh drove to Rough Creek Lodge and Resort, which has a shooting range Kyle helped design. About 5 p.m., a resort employee discovered the bodies of Kyle and Littlefield; each had been shot several times. About 45 minutes later, authorities say Routh pulled up to his sister's Midlothian home in Kyle's truck and told her he had killed Kyle and Littlefield.
Criminal law experts say a verdict hinges on whether the defense can prove Routh was insane at the time and did not know the killings at a gun range constituted a crime.
Before resting their case on Tuesday, prosecutors played a recorded phone call between Routh and a reporter from The New Yorker magazine in which Routh talks about the events, The Dallas Morning News reported.
"I had to take care of business. I took care of business, and then I got in the truck and left," Routh said in the call.
Routh also said he was annoyed Littlefield wasn't shooting. "Are you gonna shoot? Are you gonna shoot? It's a shooting sport. You shoot," Routh said in the phone call. "That's what got me all riled up."
Last week, a former deputy testified that he overheard Routh after he'd been taken into custody say that he shot the men because they wouldn't talk to him as the three drove together to the shooting range.
A Texas Ranger has testified that authorities found marijuana, a near-empty bottle of whiskey and an antipsychotic medication for schizophrenia while searching Routh's home after the shooting.
The testimony could show that Routh deliberately put himself into a violent state, said Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist who examined Andrea Yates, who was found not guilty in 2006 by reason of insanity in the drowning deaths of her five children.
"Voluntarily induced intoxication is not an excuse for the mentally ill," he said.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Jurors have three options: find Routh guilty of capital murder, find him not guilty or find him not guilty by reason of insanity. If convicted, Routh faces life in prison without parole. Prosecutors aren't seeking the death penalty. Even if he's acquitted, Routh could remain in custody. The Texas criminal code stipulates that in cases involving violent crimes where defendants are found not guilty by reason of insanity, the court can initiate civil proceedings to have them committed.
WHO WAS KYLE?
Kyle served made more than 300 kills as a sniper for SEAL Team 3, according to his own count. He earned two Silver Stars for valor. After leaving the military, he volunteered with veterans facing mental health problems, often taking them shooting.