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Veteran in sniper killing talked of having PTSD

Feb. 4, 2013 - 10:07PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 4, 2013 - 10:07PM  |  
Eddie Ray Routh
Eddie Ray Routh (Erath County Sheriff's Office via AP)
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FORT WORTH, Texas — The Iraq war veteran and Marine reservist charged with killing a former Navy SEAL sniper and his friend on a Texas shooting range had been taken to a mental hospital twice in the past five months and told authorities he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, police records show.

Cpl. Eddie Ray Routh, 25, also told his sister and brother-in-law after the shootings that he "traded his soul for a new truck," according to an Erath County arrest warrant affidavit obtained by WFAA-TV. Police said Routh was driving the truck of victim and ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle at the time of his arrest.

Routh is charged with one count of capital murder and two counts of murder in the shooting deaths of Kyle, author of the best-selling book "American Sniper," and his friend Chad Littlefield at a shooting range Saturday in Glen Rose. He is on suicide watch in the Erath County Jail, where he's being held on $3 million bail, Sheriff Tommy Bryant said.

Routh, a member of the Individual Ready Reserve, was first taken to a mental hospital Sept. 2 after he threatened to kill his family and himself, according to police records in Lancaster, where Routh lives. Authorities found Routh walking nearby with no shirt and no shoes, and smelling of alcohol. Routh told authorities he was a Marine veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Eddie stated he was hurting and that his family does not understand what he has been through," the report says.

Routh's mother told police her son had been drinking and became upset when his father said he was going to sell his gun. She said Routh began arguing with them and said he was going to "blow his brains out."

Police took Routh to Green Oaks Hospital for psychiatric care.

Dallas police records show Routh was taken back 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. Most people brought by police to the hospital are required to stay at least 48 hours.

In another brush with authorities, Lancaster police in May responded to a burglary reported by Routh's mother that included nine pill bottles. Police say Routh was involved but no other details were available.

Authorities say Routh, Kyle and Littlefield arrived at the sprawling Rough Creek Lodge about 3:15 p.m. Saturday, and a hunting guide called 911 about two hours later after discovering the bodies. Kyle and Littlefield were shot multiple times, and numerous guns were at the scene, according to the affidavit.

Routh drove to his sister's house, and told her he had killed two people and that he planned to drive to Oklahoma to evade Texas authorities, the affidavit said. Routh's sister then called police, and he was arrested after a short police pursuit in Lancaster.

Jailers used a stun gun on Routh on Sunday night after he appeared ready to assault them when they entered his cell after he refused to return his food tray, the sheriff said. Then they put Routh in a chair that restrains his arms and legs in his solitary confinement cell, Bryant said.

Bryant said Routh has an attorney but hasn't met with him at the jail in Stephenville, about 75 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Routh's mother and sister were unsuccessful Monday.

Sundae Hughes, an aunt of Routh's, said she watched him grow up but hasn't seen him since his high school graduation in 2006. Hughes was in disbelief that her nephew could be involved in such an incident.

"He has a kind heart [and was] someone willing to jump in and help, no matter what it was," she said.

Routh joined the Corps in 2006 and was promoted to corporal in 2010. His military specialty was small-arms technician, commonly known as an armorer. He had been stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and served in Iraq from 2007-08 and in the Haiti disaster relief mission in 2010.

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

Cox didn't know how Routh and Kyle knew each other. He said the shooting range event was not a FITCO session.

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. "American Sniper" was the No. 3 seller of paperbacks and hardcovers on Amazon as of Monday, and the hardcover was out of stock.

Littlefield, 35, was Kyle's friend, neighbor and "workout buddy," and also volunteered his time to work with veterans, Cox said.

Jamie Stengle reported from Midlothian, Texas. Associated Press writers Juan Carlos Llorca in El Paso, Texas; Christopher Sherman in McAllen, Texas; Martha Waggoner in Raleigh, N.C.; and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.

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