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Vet accused in sniper's death on suicide watch

Feb. 4, 2013 - 01:53PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 4, 2013 - 01:53PM  |  
Eddie Ray Routh
Eddie Ray Routh (Erath County Sheriff's Office via AP)
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FORT WORTH, Texas — The Iraq War veteran charged with killing a former Navy SEAL sniper and his friend on a Texas shooting range had to be shocked with a stun gun and restrained in his jail cell overnight after becoming aggressive, a sheriff said Monday.

Former Marine Cpl. Eddie Ray Routh, 25, is on suicide watch in the Erath County Jail, where he's being held on $3 million bond, Sheriff Tommy Bryant said. Routh is charged with one count of capital murder and two counts of murder in the shooting deaths of Chris Kyle, author of the best-selling book "American Sniper," and his friend Chad Littlefield at a shooting range Saturday in Glen Rose.

Routh, a member of the Marines Corps Reserve, appeared ready to assault jailers Sunday night when they entered his solitary confinement cell because he refused to return his food tray, Bryant said. After warnings, jailers used a stun gun once and then put Routh in a chair that restrains his arms and legs, 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, and he has not said anything to investigators.

Authorities say the three men arrived at the sprawling Rough Creek Lodge on Saturday afternoon, and a hunting guide discovered the bodies of Kyle and Littlefield about two hours later and called 911. Bryant said Sunday that the men were shot more than once.

Routh then drove Kyle's pickup to his sister's house in Midlothian and told her that he killed two people, and she called police, Erath County Sheriff's Capt. Jason Upshaw said Monday. Routh was arrested after a short police pursuit in Lancaster, near his home.

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

Sundae Hughes, an aunt of Routh's, said she has known him since he was born and watched him grow up. But she said she has not 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 enlisted in the Corps in 2006 and rose 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.

He is now in the Individual Ready Reserve. He could be called to duty, but it's uncommon unless he volunteers, said 1st Lt. Dominic Pitrone of the Marine Forces Services public affairs office.

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 said Routh's mother may have asked Kyle to help her son, but Cox didn't know how Routh and Kyle knew each other. He said the shooting range event was not a FITCO session.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rorke Denver, who served with Kyle in Iraq in 2006, 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, an officer 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."

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 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.

FITCO Cares offered life coaching for veterans, a daily support group and weekly group counseling. Sometimes veterans in other states would video conference in to counseling sessions, Cox said.

"[Kyle] didn't have any fear at all as far as working with an extreme case," Cox said. "Just like in combat he would take it on head-on and do whatever he could to give these guys assistance."

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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