War veteran accused of killing sniper had been in mental hospital

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 1:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 2:12pm

The Iraq War veteran charged with gunning down a former Navy Seal sniper and his friend at a Texas shooting range had been released from a mental hospital about a week earlier and had been “acting a little weird,” his brother-in-law told an emergency dispatcher in a recording of the call released on Tuesday.

Shortly after the shootings, Eddie Ray Routh’s sister told an operator that her brother had come to her house and confessed to killing two people, according to a recording of the frantic call released by Midlothian police.

Routh, 25, is charged with one count of capital murder and two counts of murder in the deaths of Chris Kyle, author of the best-selling book American Sniper, and his friend Chad Littlefield. He’s jailed in Erath County on US$3 million bail and is on suicide watch.

Kyle, who had earned a reputation as one of the military’s most lethal snipers while serving in Iraq, had a second book in the works, according to Sharyn Rosenblum, a spokeswoman for publisher William Morrow. No release date has been set for the new book, titled American Gun: A History of the US in Ten Firearms, and co-author by William Doyle.

In the emergency call on Saturday, Routh’s sister Laura Blevins told the operator that Routh is “psychotic” and she’s afraid he will return to her house.

“I don’t know if he’s being honest with me,” Blevins says, referring to his confession. “I don’t know if he’s on drugs or not.”

Her husband told the operator that Routh was released from a mental hospital about a week ago and that he had been “acting a little weird.” Routh’s brother-in-law also tells the operator that Routh was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The brother-in-law’s name could not be heard on the recording, though part of it was unintelligible.

On Tuesday, Routh remained in his jail cell instead of meeting with his court-appointed attorney or relatives, Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said in a telephone interview. Routh had demanded a cigarette in exchange for a meeting, but smoking isn’t allowed in the jail, Bryant said.

The sheriff said he doesn’t know which relatives came to visit Routh in the jail.

Routh was taken to a mental hospital twice since last fall and told authorities he suffers from PTSD, according to police records.

Routh, a member of the Marines Corps Reserve, threatened to kill his family and himself September 2, according to police records in Lancaster, where Routh lives. Police then took Routh to Green Oaks Hospital for psychiatric care. Dallas police records show Routh was taken to the same mental hospital in mid-January after a woman called police and said she feared for Routh’s safety.

Green Oaks will not release patient information, citing privacy laws.

Kyle and Littlefield apparently had been helping Routh work through PTSD, said Travis Cox, director of FITCO Cares, the nonprofit that Kyle set up to give in-home fitness equipment to physically and emotionally wounded veterans.

Kyle, 38, left the Navy in 2009 after four tours of duty in Iraq, where he earned a reputation as one of the military’s most lethal snipers. Littlefield, 35, was Kyle’s friend, neighbour and “workout buddy,” and also volunteered his time to work with veterans, Cox said.

Routh joined the Marines in 2006 and rose to the rank of corporal in 2010. His military specialty was small-arms technician, commonly known as an armourer. He had been stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and served in Iraq from 2007-08 and in the Haiti disaster relief mission in 2010. He is now in the individual ready reserve.