The Slatest

Killer of American Sniper Found Not Insane, Sentenced to Life In Prison

Eddie Ray Routh, convicted murderer. 

Photo by Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

A Texas jury found Eddie Ray Routh guilty of murder on Tuesday evening, rejecting his insanity defense after barely two hours of deliberation. A judge quickly sentenced Routh to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Routh shot and killed Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper, and his friend Chad Littlefield on a shooting range in February 2013. Routh’s attorneys had argued that Routh’s severe psychosis prevented him from distinguishing between right and wrong at the time of the shooting. But jurors rejected that argument, telling reporters they believed Routh was faking his mental problem.

Given Kyle’s immense fame—recently heightened by the blockbuster film adaptation of his American Sniper—ensuring a fair trial for Routh was never going to be easy. But by trying Routh in Stephenville, Texas, prosecutors probably secured a conviction before the trial even started. As post-trial interviews illustrate, jurors were exceedingly skeptical of Routh’s insanity defense, and many were likely fans of Kyle—a favorite son of Stephenville, who attended a college there which has since named him an “outstanding young alumnus.” One juror claimed that “every time something bad happened, [Routh] pulled that card,” referring to Routh’s insistence that he suffered from profound mental problems. Yet the New Yorker’s Nicholas Schmidle paints a very different picture of Routh’s mental health:

Routh’s depression and weariness remained, and he began to exhibit symptoms more commonly associated with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. “He would get into these moods where you could understand what he was saying, but you had no idea where it was coming from,” Laura said. “We were talking, and he was, like, ‘Man, I’m ready to hit those ski slopes.’ And I was like, ‘What?’ And he’s like, ‘You know, that would be great. Catch some powder?’ I’ve never been skiing in my life. And we had just been talking about fishing. He would just make absolutely no sense.” Some of the things he said had a conspiratorial tone. He once told Laura, “There’s gonna be a conviction. I’m gonna tell everything, and it’s not going to be what you think.”

Jen was also worried about Routh. “He was going through a big bout of depression,” she said. “He would go hours without speaking. He was obviously off.”

Routh could no longer manage the anxiety of driving a car, and he moved back home. Jodi recalled, “I was so afraid I’d come home from work sometime and find him dead.”

Routh was also hospitalized in mental institutions four times in the seven months before he killed Kyle and Littlefield. While hospitalized, Routh was given anti-psychotic drugs to combat his paranoid delusions. His last hospitalization occurred days before he killed Kyle and Littlefield. After the shooting, he went to Taco Bell and ordered two burritos. In his confession to the police, Routh explained that “pigs were taking over the earth.” He will now be sent to prison for the rest of his life.