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In Stephenville, Relief After Guilty Verdict In 'American Sniper' Killing Trial

Lauren Silverman
Chris Kyle was remembered at a 2013 memorial service at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

The town of Stephenville is buzzing about Tuesday night's quick conviction of Eddie Ray Routh in the deaths of "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle and a friend at a shooting range.

Some thought the 10 female and two male jurors would spend days deliberating. Instead, they spent an hour eating a late dinner, and another hour reaching their decision. This didn’t surprise Kerry Roach, the owner of Stephenville’s popular Jake & Dorothy’s Café.

“I’m glad there was justice served, and I’m just glad there’s closure for the families,” Roach says. “That’s the main thing to put this down to rest. They’ve been through a lot the last two years, all parties involved.”

Roach knows a lot of people in this small town, including the judge, some of the jurors, and the attorneys.

“Alan Nash, the prosecutor, used to sit at the counter with my mother,” Roach says. “The judge, I went to school with his, well, his brother was closer to my age than his daddy. But I’ve known them their entire life. … The defense, Shay Isham’s parents. It’s just all hometown men.”

The trial involving the U.S. military’s most decorated sniper is, Roach says, the biggest thing that’s ever happened in this small college town. Stephenville is known around the state for its milk production and the number of professional cowboys and cowgirls per square mile.

Now America and the world know it as the place where Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield were murdered at a high-end gun range.

“If you shoot two people, in the back, and you leave in their truck, take guns, go somewhere else, how are you not guilty,” says Katherine Hullum, who works at the café. “To me, they showed the real Eddie Routh, however you say his name.”

Eddie Ray Routh appeared subdued in court, both when the verdict and sentencing was read aloud, and when Littlefield’s dad and step-brother addressed him, reading their victim impact statements.

Outside the courthouse, Littlefield’s mom, Judy, talked with reporters. She said she was "thrilled" with Tuesday night's verdict.

“We’ve waited two years for God to get justice for us on behalf of our son," she said. "And, as always, God has proved to be faithful.” 

Chris Kyle’s widow Taya did not talk with the media. She left the courtroom upset when the defense was giving closing arguments.

Scooter Stevenson is from Cleburne, but was passing through town, and stopped to witness the end of this trial.

“In my opinion, life without parole isn’t good enough; he should have got the needle,” Stevenson said.

Another local passerby, Roger Ammons, thinks so, too.

“I wish he had gotten the death penalty really, because I’m a veteran, and he shot one of his own comrades in the back,” Ammons said.

But Routh’s attorneys say he was delusional, a paranoid schizophrenic who has long suffered from a mental illness, and that he did not know right from wrong at the time of the shootings.

Repeatedly, the defense said Routh believed Kyle and Littlefield were going to kill him. So he killed them first.

More from The Associated Press:

A former Marine has been convicted in the deaths of "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle and Kyle's friend at a shooting range.

Jurors returned the verdict Tuesday against Eddie Ray Routh, whose attorneys had mounted an insanity defense and said he suffered from psychosis. Since prosecutors didn't seek the death penalty in the capital murder case, the 27-year-old receives an automatic life sentence without parole in the deaths of the famed Navy SEAL and Chad Littlefield.

The men had taken Routh out shooting in February 2013 after Routh's mother asked Kyle to help him. Family members say Routh suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq and in Haiti.

The case drew intense interest, largely because of the blockbuster film based on Kyle's memoir about his four Iraq tours.

Routh showed no reaction in court, even when family members of Littlefield addressed him.

"We're so thrilled that we have the verdict that we have tonight," Littlefield's mother, Judy Littlefield, said at a news conference outside the courthouse.

Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle, had left the courtroom earlier in the day and had not returned when the verdict was read.



Original story: The Stephenville Police Department says jurors have reached a verdict in the trial of the ex-Marine charged in the killing of "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle and another man.

Eddie Ray Routh is charged in the February 2013 slayings at a Texas shooting range. His attorneys have mounted an insanity defense.

The jury's verdict was going to be announced Tuesday night.

Prosecutors say that whatever episodes Routh suffers are self-induced through alcohol and marijuana abuse and that he should still be held accountable.

The trial has drawn extra attention because of Kyle's memoir and the blockbuster film it inspired.

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.