$3 Million Bond for Veteran Suspected in "American Sniper" Author's Slaying

Investigators say Marine has offered no comments on motive for shootings

By Jamie Stengle and Christopher Sherman
|  Monday, Feb 11, 2013  |  Updated 5:56 AM PDT
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Friends brought teddy bears to the families of Chris Kyle & Chad Littlefield. NBC 5's Ray Villeda also has a timeline of the events in the case.

Ray Villeda, NBC 5 News

Friends brought teddy bears to the families of Chris Kyle & Chad Littlefield. NBC 5's Ray Villeda also has a timeline of the events in the case.

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A 25-year-old Iraq war veteran charged with killing former Navy SEAL and "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle and his friend turned his semi-automatic handgun onto the pair while they were at a North Texas shooting range, authorities said Sunday.

Eddie Ray Routh, of Lancaster, was arraigned early Sunday on two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Kyle, 38, and Chad Littlefield, 35, at the shooting range in Erath County.

Meanwhile, police continue to block off the street near Kyle's home in Midlothian. On Sunday, some friends dropped off teddy bears at Littlefield's home.

Midlothian's city manager, Don Hastings, told NBC DFW the families will not be having candlelight vigils in honor of Littlefield and Kyle. They are asking other folks in the community to refrain from doing so as well.

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Hastings said that he believes the Midlothian ISD will honor those wishes. Littlefield's wife is an assistant principal at a middle school in the district.

Capt. Jason Upshaw with the Erath County Sheriff's Office said Routh used a semi-automatic handgun that authorities later found at his home. Upshaw said ballistics tests weren't complete Sunday, but authorities believe it was the gun used in the shootings. Upshaw declined to give any more details about the gun.

Routh has not made any comments indicating what his motive may have been, Upshaw said. Sheriff Tommy Bryant said Routh was unemployed and "may have been suffering from some type of mental illness from being in the military himself," but he didn't know if Routh was on any medication.

"I don't know that we'll ever know. He's the only one that knows that," Upshaw said.

Bryant didn't know if Routh was on any medication or whether the possible mental illness might be post-traumatic stress disorder.

The U.S. military confirmed Sunday that Routh was a corporal in the Marines from June 2006 to January 2010. He was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010. His current duty status is listed as reserve.

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Neighbors who spoke NBC 5 offered different impressions of the Lancaster man. One couple was friends with Routh, while another neighbor said he made her uncomfortable.

Routh is being held on $3 million bond. Authorities did not know whether Routh had a lawyer yet.

Bryant said the trio went to the shooting range around 3:15 p.m. Saturday. A hunting guide came across the bodies of Kyle and Littlefield at about 5 p.m. and called 911.

The shooting range is in a remote part of Rough Creek Lodge and no one else was there, authorities said. The resort, which is about an hour southwest of Fort Worth, covers 11,000 acres.

Upshaw said autopsies were still pending and he could not say how many times the men were shot or where on their bodies they were hit.

After the shootings, Routh left the shooting range in Kyle's black pickup truck, Bryant said, first going to his sister's home in Midlothian, where he told her and her husband what he had done. The couple called local police.

Routh arrived at his home in Lancaster at about 8 p.m. Police arrested him after a brief pursuit and took him to the Lancaster Police Department.

Remembering Chris Kyle

Kyle, who was born in West Texas and grew up in Dallas, served four combat tours in Iraq and elsewhere between the start of the war and 2008. The decorated former Navy SEAL holds the most career sniper kills in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills.

The previous American record was 109, according to Kyle's New York Times No. 1 bestselling book "American Sniper."

Travis Cox, the director of a nonprofit Kyle helped found, told the Associated Press on Sunday that Kyle and Littlefield had taken Routh to the range. Littlefield was Kyle's neighbor and "workout buddy," Cox said.

"What I know is Chris and a gentleman — great guy, I knew him well, Chad Littlefield — took a veteran out shooting who was struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you know, give him a helping hand and he turned the gun on both of them, killing them," Cox said.

Kyle's nonprofit, FITCO Cares, provides at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.

"Chris was literally the type of guy if you were a veteran and needed help he'd help you," Cox said. "And from my understanding that's what happened here. I don't know how he came in contact with this gentleman, but I do know that it was not through the foundation."

Cox described Littlefield as a gentle, kind-hearted man who often called or emailed him with ideas for events or fundraisers to help veterans.

"It was just two great guys with Chad and Chris trying to help out a veteran in need and making time out of their day to help him. And to give him a hand. And unfortunately this thing happened," Cox said.

Bryant seemed to confirm that scenario. The sheriff said Routh's mother "may have reached out to Mr. Kyle to try to help her son."

"We kind of have an idea that maybe that's why they were at the range for some type of therapy that Mr. Kyle assists people with. And I don't know if it's called shooting therapy; I don't have any idea," Bryant said.

Lt. Cmdr. Rorke Denver, who served with Kyle on SEAL Team 3 in Iraq in 2006, called Kyle a champion of the modern battlefield.

"Everybody was aware in 2006 that something special or something unique with his skill set was developing and starting to grow and then it just carried on until he hung up his guns, at least in an active military capacity, and moved on," Denver said. His book, "Damn Few," about training SEALs, will be released this month.

Denver wasn't surprised that Kyle apparently used a shooting range to help someone with PTSD.

"For us, for warriors, that's a skill set that has become very familiar, very comfortable for us," said Denver, a lieutenant commander in a reserve SEAL team. "So I actually see it as kind of a perfect use of Chris' unique skill set and expertise, of which he has very few peers."

Craft International, Kyle's security training company, had scheduled a $2,950-per-person civilian training event at Rough Creek Lodge called the "Rough Creek Shoot Out!" for March 1-3. The price included lodging, meals and shooting instruction. Kyle was scheduled to teach the first class, called "precision rifle."

Kyle is survived by his wife, Taya, and their two children, Cox said.

Midlothian police have asked that the Kyle and Littlefield families be allowed to grieve privately.

Sherman reported from McAllen. NBC 5's Ray Villeda, Associated Press writers Andale Gross and Erica Hunzinger in Chicago contributed to this report.

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