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Chad Littlefield


Taya Kyle, the widow of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle depicted in the Oscar-nominated film American Sniper, gave an emotional testimony during Eddie Routh murder trial in Stephenville, Texas.

Chris Kyle’s wife told jurors about her final moments with her husband, just hours before he and a friend were killed at a Texas gun range.

She was the first prosecution witness called on February 11 in the murder trial of the ex-Marine accused of fatally shooting Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield in 2023.

The trial in the small town of Stephenville, located about 30 miles from the rural luxury resort where the men were killed, has attracted national attention with the recent release of the blockbuster movie based on the memoir of the sniper who served four tours in Iraq.

Defense attorneys are seeking an insanity defense for Eddie Ray Routh, 27, who faces life in prison without parole if convicted of capital murder.

Chris Kyle had taken Eddie Routh to the shooting range after Routh’s mother asked Kyle if he could help him.Taya Kyle American Sniper trial

Taya Kyle paused and then her voice broke when a prosecutor asked her to give jurors the name of the man she’d married.

Her testimony was conversational and compelling and she often looked straight at jurors as she talked about Chris Kyle, smiling when she said he had attended Tarleton State University in Stephenville before leaving to ride broncos in the rodeo and later joining the Navy.

Taya Kyle told jurors that as her husband left to go to the shooting range on February 2, 2013, “we just said we loved each other and gave each other a hug and kiss, like we always did.”

The day started like any typical Saturday for the Kyles. As parents of an 8-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl, they had spent their morning cheering at youth sporting events and chatting with friends. Taya Kyle had plans that afternoon to take their daughter to a Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Taya Kyle said she’d called Chris midafternoon – around the time he arrived at Rough Creek Lodge and Resort – and noticed he was unusually terse. Instead of his usual “Hello babe,” he gave a quick “Hello”. Chris Kyle said it would be fine to have dinner with friends. Then she asked if he was OK. He just said “Yep”.

During opening statements, a defense attorney revealed a text message exchange between Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield as they drove to the lodge with Eddie Routh, whom Kyle had picked up at his house.

Chris Kyle texted Chad Littlefield: “This dude is straight-up nuts.”

“He’s (sitting) right behind me, watch my six,” Chad Littlefield texted back, using a military term for watching one’s back.

As dinnertime approached, Taya Kyle became concerned. Chad Littlefield’s wife called her, also worried.

Taya Kyle’s alarm grew when she texted her husband: “Are you OK? I’m getting worried.”

There was no reply.

The bodies of Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield were found at the shooting range at about 5 p.m. Both were shot multiple times.

Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash described Eddie Routh as “a troubled young man” who on the morning of the killings numbed himself with marijuana and whiskey. He said a history of mental illness should not absolve Eddie Routh in the deaths.

Tim Moore, an attorney for Eddie Routh, said Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield’s text exchange shows how Routh was spiraling out of control. He told jurors that Eddie Routh was suffering from severe mental strain that day and thought he needed to kill the two or they would turn on him.

Eddie Routh was a small arms technician who served in Iraq and was deployed to earthquake-ravaged Haiti before leaving the Marines in 2010.

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The trial of Eddie Ray Routh, who is charged with killing of former Navy SEALs sniper Chris Kyle, is scheduled to open in Stephenville, Texas, on February 11 at 9 a.m.

American Sniper, the blockbuster war movie about Chris Kyle, now playing at Cinemark Cinema 6 three miles from the courtroom, will be showing at 3:40 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10:20 p.m.

Legal experts have questioned whether Eddie Ray Routh, 27, the mentally ill veteran accused of killing Chris Kyle and his friend at a shooting range in Stephenville’s Erath County in 2013, can receive a fair trial here.

American Sniper has become a cultural moment far beyond the reach of the book, the movie or the criminal case against Eddie Ray Routh.Eddie Ray Routh American Sniper Chris Kyle

Just as the movie has been debated for what it says about war and warriors, the trial will dissect what war did to and for two men – one of them hailed, particularly in Texas, as an American hero, the other a fellow soldier on trial for two murders that people here are still trying to comprehend two years later.

Eddie Ray Routh’s lawyers, Warren St. John and Tim Moore, have included the movie and the local support for Chris Kyle in their legal case, asking the judge to postpone the trial. They cited the popularity of the movie, its release in local theaters, the bomb threat and Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to declare last Monday, the two-year anniversary of Chris Kyle’s death, Chris Kyle Day in Texas.

The judge, Erath County District Judge Jason Cashon, denied their request.

Eddie Ray Routh’s lawyers also asked the judge to move the proceedings out of Erath County, describing “so great a prejudice” against their client that he could not get a fair trial.

Judge Cashon was expected to turn down that motion as well, but it was clear last week as prospective jurors crowded the courtroom that he had concerns about the publicity surrounding the case.

A pool of 263 potential jurors qualified for jury selection. Prosecutors and defense lawyers questioned them on February 9 and 10, but there was concern whether the pool was large enough for a jury to be seated, raising the remote possibility that the start of the trial could be delayed.

Chris Kyle, who became the military’s deadliest sniper while protecting Marines in Iraq, took Eddie Ray Routh to the range on February 2, 2013.

He often used trips to the range as a form of therapy for wounded and troubled veterans.

Once there, Eddie Ray Routh turned his handgun on Chris Kyle, 38, and Kyle’s friend, Chad Littlefield, 35, and then fled in Kyle’s truck, the authorities said.

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