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Police: Navy SEAL sniper's killer 'traded his soul for new truck'

February 04, 2013|By Matt Pearce
  • Rough Creek Lodge, where former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were found slain at the property's gun range.
Rough Creek Lodge, where former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and his friend… (Richard W. Rodriguez / Fort…)

The Iraq veteran accused of killing a Navy SEAL sniper and another man at a Texas gun range had been treated for mental illness and confessed about the slayings to his sister, police said Monday.

Chris Kyle, 38, a former Navy SEAL and author of "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History," and a friend, Chad Littlefield, 35, were found dead with multiple gunshot wounds at a secluded gun range at the Rough Creek Lodge southwest of Fort Worth.

There were multiple semiautomatic rifles, handguns and revolvers at the range, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by WFAA-TV. The man suspected of killing Kyle and Littlefield, 25-year-old Marine veteran Eddie Ray Routh, was gone, along with the semiautomatic handgun he'd likely used in the slayings, police said.

But he didn't get far. His sister, Laura Blevins, called the Midlothian Police Department to report that Routh had come by her and her husband's home and confessed to killing Kyle and Littlefield, according to the affidavit.

He had a big black truck they'd never seen before, and he "told the Blevinses that he had 'traded his soul for a new truck' " before he drove away, headed for Oklahoma to avoid Texas police, according to the affidavit.

Routh had been hospitalized in September for “threatening to kill himself and his family,” according to a Lancaster, Texas, police report obtained by the Dallas Morning News. In that incident, police said they'd found him shoeless and smelling of booze when he told them "he was hurting and that his family does not understand what he has been through."

"Police spoke with Routh’s mother, Jodi, who told police that he had been drinking and that he had become upset when his father said he was going to sell his gun," the Morning News reported.

On Jan. 19, police took Routh to another mental hospital after a North Dallas woman called police saying she feared for Routh's safety, the Morning News reported.

Kyle took veterans to gun ranges as part of his own style of therapy -- to some, controversial. At a Sunday news conference, Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said Routh's mother, a schoolteacher, may have reached out to Kyle to get help for her son.

Investigators have said that they don't know what Routh's motives might have been. He reportedly became violent with jailers on Sunday evening, and he was shocked with a stun gun, strapped to a chair and put on suicide watch, officials said.

In his book, Kyle wrote that gun-range therapy was meant to be easygoing and fun, with teasing, jokes and bonding over beers and stories.

"What wounded veterans don’t need is sympathy," Kyle wrote. "They need to be treated like the men they are: equals, heroes, and people who still have tremendous value for society. If you want to help them, start there. In a funny way, bustin’ back and forth shows more respect than asking 'Are you OK?' in a sickly sweet voice."

matt.pearce@latimes.com

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