Suspect arrested in murder of elite Navy SEAL sniper

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by JASON WHITELY and JONATHAN BETZ

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on February 2, 2013 at 10:11 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 23 at 6:13 PM

Gun range murders

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ERATH COUNTY — Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL who became known as the deadliest U.S. sniper, was one of two men murdered on Saturday afternoon at a gun range in Erath County.

A suspect, Eddie Ray Routh, was captured Saturday night and arraigned on one count of capital murder and two counts of murder. Bond was set at $3 million. 

Three sources confirmed to News 8 that Kyle — who served in every major battle during Operation Iraqi Freedom — was shot dead at a gun range at Rough Creek Lodge, 53 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

The second victim was identified early Sunday morning as 35-year-old Chad Littlefield of Midlothian.

Eddie Ray Routh, 25, is in custody in connection with the shootings.

Investigators said Routh, a former Marine and expert marksman who is said to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, is believed to have turned his weapon on Kyle and the second victim, killing them both at point-blank range about 3:30 p.m.

Their bodies were not discovered until nearly two hours later.

An alert was issued for Routh, who left the scene in the pickup truck of one of his victims.

Police traced Routh to his home in Lancaster, south of Dallas.

"They had like four shotguns on him, I believe," said neighbor Carolyn Greathouse. "Next thing I know, time passes... he starts up the truck... then all of a sudden he rushes down the road and they all take off after him."

Routh, 25, was captured at 9 p.m. after a short pursuit. He was transferred to Erath County early Sunday morning to face murder charges.

Since retiring as a Navy SEAL, Kyle had been actively helping other military veterans recover from PTSD.

"My heart is breaking," said Travis Cox, director of FITCO Cares Foundation, in a statement early Sunday morning. Kyle helped found the organization to help treat veterans who suffer from PTSD.

"Our foundation, FITCO Cares, this country and most importantly, his wife Taya and their children, lost a dedicated father and husband, a lifelong patriot and an American hero," Cox continued.

He hailed Kyle as a hero and said "Chris died doing what he filled his heart with passion – serving soldiers struggling with the fight to overcome PTSD."

While serving in Iraq, insurgents placed a bounty on Kyle's head because of his lethal accuracy as a sniper. He recounted his experiences in "American Sniper," published last year. It details Kyle's sniper days killing insurgents from 1999 to 2009.

The book's cover refers to Kyle as "the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history," with 160 confirmed kills.

Kyle, 38, was born in Odessa, Texas and was using a rifle at the age of 8, according to his book.

He served four tours of duty in Iraq and was twice wounded by gunfire.

Kyle left the Navy in 2009 and was president of Craft International, which provides training to military and law enforcement professionals.

Recently, he also appeared as an "operative" on the NBC reality show Stars Earn Stripes, in which "celebrities are challenged to execute complicated missions inspired by real military exercises."

He was married and has two children.

The murder investigation involves multiple agencies, including the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Erath County Sheriff's Department, Stephenville Police Department, Lancaster Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the Erath County District Attorney and the Texas Rangers.

WFAA reporters Carla Wade in Erath County, Jonathan Betz in Lancaster and Rebecca Lopez in Dallas; KHOU reporter Jeff McShan in Houston; and WFAA producers Tina Foster and Jason Trahan contributed to this report.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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