Routh thought hero Chris Kyle was a "pig assassin," testifies psychiatrist Dr. Mitchell Dunn

By Darla Atlas
Updated February 20, 2015 01:30 PM
Credit: AP Photo

As American Sniper enters the home stretch of the Oscar race this weekend, the riveting real-life drama surrounding the murder of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle continues to unfold in a Texas courtroom.

On Thursday, Dr. Mitchell Dunn, a forensic psychiatrist who was the last witness to testify for the defense before it rested, revealed that after former Marine Eddie Ray Routh killed Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield, he stood over their bodies for a moment and thought, “That’s terrible, I shot two guys.’ ”

Routh committed the crime while in the grips of a “severe mental defect that prevented him from knowing his conduct was wrong,” Dunn told the jury. Routh has schizophrenia, he added, later saying he doesn’t believe the former Marine has post-traumatic stress disorder at all.

Dunn says that in the weeks leading up to the shootings, Routh began to believe that many people were out to hurt him. After he climbed into Kyle’s truck on the afternoon of Feb. 2, 2013, “he began to think that Mr. Kyle and Mr. Littlefield were some kind of pig assassins, or hybrid pigs sent to kill people,” Dunn said.

Jurors then heard details of the shootings from the perspective of the killer. He told Dunn that when he got in the truck, “he thought initially that they were going to go and talk somewhere,” Dunn testified. But when he saw the guns in the vehicle, “he remembered that they were going to do something outdoors.”

During a stop at Whataburger, Routh said he became annoyed because, although he didn’t want to eat, Kyle told him, ” ‘You’re gonna eat, Eddie.’ ”

They got three meals and Dr Peppers. At one point, Routh said he asked the men, “Aren’t you tired of eating people’s [excrement]?”

As they kept driving to the Rough Creek Lodge shooting range, Routh recalled to Dunn that he smelled the same odor he’d detected at the home of his neighbor, whom he suspected to be “part of a gang of bloodthirsty savages.” He said this sensation in the truck “made the hair on the back of his neck stand up,” Dunn said.

Growing more anxious inside the truck, “I thought to myself, ‘This might be a one-way trip,’ ” he told Dunn.

He Said He Felt Relieved

At the shooting range, Routh says he asked if he could help unload the weapons, but wasn’t given an answer.

“He said that for about five minutes, he took a loaded 9-millimeter and slow-fired at a silhouette target 25 meters away,” Dunn testified. Kyle stood to the right of him, shooting at a target about 30 to 40 meters back.

Littlefield, according to Routh, wasn’t shooting at all, which seemed “totally odd” to Routh.

“He told me he felt like he was in danger and something was going to happen,” Dunn said.

It was then that he turned toward Littlefield and shot him in the back. Routh described hitting him at “center mass.”

“He saw Kyle turning,” Dunn said, “and shot him two to three times in the back and the upper torso. He saw Mr. Littlefield twitching, so he shot him in the head, and that stopped the twitching.”

Dead on the ground were Littlefield and his friend Kyle, regarded as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. He’d been shot in the back by a fellow veteran he’d been trying to help.

Routh stood over their bodies for a minute, Dunn said in court.

“He said he felt relieved,” Dunn added. “He’d done what he had to do, but he was in shock.”

‘This Isn’t Gonna Look Good’

When the psychiatrist asked why he did it, Routh told him that Littlefield “had a pistol in his hand” and that he felt threatened. As for shooting Kyle, “I was sure he was going to shoot me,” he said.

Routh also recalled thinking, “It’s a pretty [expletive] thing to do to kill someone,” and, “This isn’t gonna look good.”

During their interview, Routh also told the psychiatrist, “As soon as I did it, I knew I’d made a mistake.” Then again, he said, “The whole ride down there, they’re plotting to take my life. I needed to do it in the situation I was in.”

In Dunn’s opinion, “something was really wrong with Eddie Ray Routh on the day of this offense. And what was wrong was a mental disease.”

But on cross-examination, Assistant State Attorney General Jane Starnes brought up possible motives that had nothing to do with mental disease. Jealousy, for example, or low self-esteem.

“Just because somebody is mentally ill, it doesn’t mean they can’t express feelings and emotions like non-mentally ill people feel,” she said, as Dunn agreed.

Routh was possibly jealous about Kyle being famous, or an expert marksman, Starnes said.

“It’s also possible that he wanted to feel important,” she added.

“Yes,” Dunn agreed.

“Maybe he wanted some notoriety?”

“I did not get the sense that he’d killed for notoriety,” Dunn said.

“When you kill someone who is known as the American Sniper, it might make you feel important,” Starnes added.

“Yes,” Dunn said, “it’s possible.”

Killer Had Been in Psychiatric Hospital

Earlier on Thursday, Jodi Routh, Eddie’s mother, took the stand for a second time in the trial. She testified that when she first approached Kyle in the carpool line at his kids’ school to ask for help for her son, it was before Routh was readmitted to a psychiatric hospital in January 2013. The encounter happened earlier in the month, and Routh was sent to the hospital on Jan. 19.

“You didn’t think that would be useful information to him?” Starnes asked, referring to the psychiatric hospital stay.

“I didn’t see Chris Kyle after that,” Jodi Routh replied.

“But you had his number,” Starnes said. “You didn’t think that could be useful information? Maybe information that might have saved Chris Kyle’s life?”

In his testimony, Dunn said he thinks Routh’s psychosis got progressively worse leading up to the killings. He suspected that his girlfriend, Jennifer Weed, was half-human, half-pig. He thought his neighbor might be eating Routh’s excrement through the sewer system. He was convinced his coworkers were cannibals, and that they were planning to roast him over the heater in the building.

But Starnes took issue with the subject of pigs as they relate to his alleged schizophrenia. She asked Dunn if he was aware that four days before the jailhouse interview between the two men, Routh had talked to his mother on the phone about the TV show Boss Hog.

Noting that the show features a character called Pig Man, who kills feral hogs and sells the meat to barbecue joints, Starnes also pointed out that the show also features such segments as “Pigology 101.”

“For someone facing a capital murder charge,” she said to Dunn, “they might have different motivations than someone who sees you as a patient.”

Dunn agreed. Maybe excuses and stories are created after the fact, she said, adding, “It would be hard to live with, ‘I’m just a cold-blooded killer.’ ”

For much more on the murder trial of Eddie Ray Routh, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now