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Jury Selection Starts Thursday In Chris Kyle Murder Trial

In 2013, Chris Kyle and his neighbor Chad Littlefield were killed at an Erath County shooting range.

Jury selection starts Thursday morning in the murder trial of the man accused of killing Chris Kyle -- the veteran Navy SEAL who’s the subject of the hit movie American Sniper.

More than 800 people have been summoned for jury duty in the small-town of Stephenville, more than an hour southwest of Fort Worth.

The Donald R. Jones Justice Center in Erath County opens at 8 a.m. And jury selection is expected to begin an hour later.

“It will take a larger pool in order to seat an unbiased jury,” Fort Worth Judge Brent Carr said.

He runs Tarrant County’s Veteran’s Court. Carr is not involved in the Stephenville trial, but he says it’s not unusual for high-profile cases to cast a wide net for impartial jurors.

“We have to find a way,” he said. “That is our system. We must find a way to ensure that absolute fairness of the justice system remains the top criteria in the administration of justice.”

The trial, which has received international attention, is expected to begin Tuesday, a little more than two years after Chris Kyle was killed at a shooting range. Then, 25-year-old Eddie Ray Routh was charged with killing Kyle and neighbor Chad Littlefield. Routh’s sister Laurie Blevins called 911 following the shooting.

“Listen, my brother just came by here…” she said. “He told me he’s committed a murder… and I’m terrified for my life… I don’t know if he’s going to come back here.”

"He's All Crazy"

Blevins was so shaken that she could barely speak to the 911 operator.

“He says he killed two guys,” she said. “They went out on a shooting range… he’s all crazy... I don’t know if he’s on drugs or not… My husband is going to talk to you because I’m so nervous.”

Her husband, Gaines Blevins, in the same call, later told the operator his brother-in-law had previously been diagnosed with PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One of Routh’s attorneys, J. Warren St. John of Fort Worth, says his client will plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

Chris Kyle, whose book “American Sniper” has been turned into a blockbuster movie with the same name, reportedly took Routh to the shooting range to help the troubled veteran who had a police record before this incident. In an interview three years ago on Think with KERA’s Krys Boyd, the author talked about his up-bringing in west Texas.

”I’m no different from anybody else,” Kyle said. “I just did a different job. I’m your average, everyday, next-door guy.”

"If You Don't Do It, They're Going To Kill Your Guys."

A guy who’s killed 160 people as a Navy SEAL, according to his book.

“Growing up the only time you ever shot anything was when you were hunting and you were gonna eat it. (Krys Boyd) Yeah. (Kyle) And even the first time I had to do it, they’re yelling at me… ‘you have to do it, take it, take it.’ And it still just trying to get over the fact that, ‘wow, I’m fixing to have to kill someone. You do it because you have to think of it different… you’re killing an enemy that if you don’t do it, they’re going to kill your guys.”

The trial is expected to last two weeks or longer.  

Doualy Xaykaothao is a newscaster and reporter for NPR, based in Culver City. She returned to NPR for this role in 2018, and is responsible for writing, producing, and delivering national newscasts. She also reports on breaking news stories for NPR.