Body of 'American Sniper' Kyle surrounded by weapons, Ranger testifies

By Jon Herskovitz
Body of 'American Sniper' Kyle surrounded by weapons, Ranger testifies

By Jon Herskovitz

STEPHENVILLE, Texas (Reuters) - The former Navy SEAL whose best-selling autobiography was turned into the hit movie "American Sniper" was found dead at a rural Texas shooting range, the only loaded weapon within reach a 1911-style semiautomatic pistol, a Texas Ranger told a court on Thursday.

Former U.S. Marine Eddie Ray Routh, 27, is on trial for murdering Chris Kyle and friend and neighbor, Chad Littlefield, in February 2013 at a shooting range about 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Fort Worth.

Kyle and Littlefield had been shot multiple times, with two guns. Police said they were found on a shooting platform at the range surrounded by military assault rifles, pistols and other weapons.

"The only weapons on the scene that were loaded were two 1911-style handguns," Texas Ranger Michael Adcock told the court in rural Erath County. The semi-automatic pistols that are popular with enthusiasts were on Kyle and Littlefield, with their safeties on.

A medical examiner testified that Kyle was shot six times, and he was hit in the chest, back, jaw and arm.

Prosecutors have told the jury that Routh shot dead both men on Feb. 2, 2013, stole Kyle's pickup truck and fled.

When Routh was taken into custody after a car chase, he told police "he had taken a couple of souls," one of the officers who apprehended him testified.

Routh's lawyers told jurors their client had been diagnosed with paranoid psychosis from overseas tours of duty in Iraq and Haiti. They are seeking a verdict of innocence by reason of insanity, arguing that he did not know what he was doing was wrong.

They have not disputed charges made by the prosecution that Routh shot the two men. Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence.

Routh was driven to the range by Kyle, who had been helping fellow veterans heal the mental scars associated with combat.

As the three men sped over Texas country roads, Kyle, who was credited with the most kills of any U.S. sniper, sent a text to Littlefield that read: "This dude is straight up nuts," defense attorney Tim Moore told jurors.

Kyle has been lionized in his home state of Texas where many people see him as a model of dedication to country and servicemen. His story has gained renewed attention thanks to the Oscar-nominated movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper.

Critics contend, however, that the film glorifies war and sanitizes Kyle, who calls those he was fighting in Iraq "savages" in his memoir.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Grant McCool)