Skip to main content

American Sniper killer sentenced to life in prison

American Sniper killer sentenced to life in prison

Share this story

Pool/Getty Images

Eddie Ray Routh has been sentenced to life in prison for killing Chris Kyle, the former military sniper who was the subject of the film American Sniper. Routh, 27, was found guilty of fatally shooting Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a firing range near Fort Worth in February 2013. A prosecutor in the case said that Routh acted coldly and deliberately, waiting until Kyle had completely unloaded his weapon before ambushing the pair from behind. Routh's lawyers argued that he was a paranoid schizophrenic who believed that Kyle and Littlefield were plotting to kill him. The jury deliberated for just over two hours before finding Routh guilty. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.


The defense initially tried to have the case moved from Erath county, arguing that it would be impossible to have a fair trial there. Kyle has been lionized in his home state, where the former rancher turned Navy SEAL was celebrated for holding the most confirmed kills of any US military sniper. Two days before jury selection began, the 2nd of February was declared "Chris Kyle Day" by Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas. Candidates for the jury were asked whether they had seen American Sniper, the adaptation of Kyle's bestselling 2012 autobiography directed by Clint Eastwood. The film earned more than $400 million in the box office and was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning the prize for best sound editing.

Routh's lawyers argued that the former marine was experiencing a psychotic episode when he shot the two men. Mitchell Dunn, a psychiatrist that interviewed Routh extensively, testified that the defendant held many delusions, saying: "He began to think that Mr. Kyle and Mr. Littlefield were some type of pig assassins — hybrid pigs sent here to kill people." Kyle himself texted Littlefield on the way to the firing range to say that Routh was "straight-up nuts." Routh's family members also said that they believed he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, although it was noted that Routh was a weapons technician in the army and so did not see direct combat.