The Iraq War veteran accused of killing a prominent Navy SEAL sniper and his friend on a Texas shooting range on Saturday had sought mental health help twice in the last five months to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, police records show.
Eddie Ray Routh, 25, is charged with one count of capital murder — meaning he could face the death sentence — and two counts of murder in the deaths of his friend Chad Littlefield and ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, author of the book American Sniper.
Police say Routh shot the two men at short distance before fleeing in his pick-up. When police arrived at his house, he led them on a brief chase before being apprehended.
An arrest warrant, obtained by a Texas television station, shows Routh told his sister and brother-in-law after the shootings that he had "traded his soul for a new truck." Routh, a member of the Marine Corps Reserve, is now being held in the Erath County Jail, where he is reportedly on suicide watch.
Routh was first hospitalized for mental health issues on Sept. 2, 2012, after he threatened to kill his family and himself, police records from Lancaster, Texas, show. Officers picked up the veteran walking nearby his home with no shirt and no shoes, smelling of alcohol.
"Eddie stated he was hurting and that his family does not understand what he has been through," the report said.
Routh's mother told police that 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 May, Routh's mother reported a burglary that included nine pill bottles and said her son was involved, according to a Lancaster police report.
Associated Press attempts to contact Routh’s mother and sister have been unsuccessful since the shooting.
Routh had ‘kind heart’: aunt
Authorities say Routh, Kyle and Littlefield arrived at the sprawling Rough Creek Lodge at about 3:15 p.m. Saturday, and a hunting guide called 911 about two hours later after discovering the bodies of Kyle and Littlefield, which had been shot multiple times. Numerous guns were found at the scene, police said.
Routh then allegedly drove to his sister's house and told her that he killed two people and that he planned to drive to Oklahoma to evade Texas authorities, the affidavit said. Routh's sister then called police.
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 Marines in 2006 and rose to the rank of 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.
In the military’s eye, Routh is in the individual ready reserve. He could be called to duty, but it's uncommon unless he volunteers, 1st Lt. Dominic Pitrone of the Marine Forces Services public affairs office said.
Kyle may have been helping Routh fight PTSD
Travis Cox, director of FITCO Cares — the nonprofit organization 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 his PTSD at the time of the shooting.
Cox said he didn't know how Routh and Kyle knew each other, and that 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 is one of Amazon’s top sellers.
Littlefield, 35, was Kyle's friend, neighbour and "workout buddy," and also volunteered his time to work with veterans, Cox said.