"Shortly before being slain, Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL whose autobiography was turned into the hit movie "American Sniper," texted a friend next to him in a pickup truck that the man who moments later would shoot them both was "nuts," a defense lawyer said on Wednesday.
A Texas jury heard opening statements and the first witness in the trial of former U.S. Marine Eddie Ray Routh, 27. He is charged with murdering Kyle and Chad Littlefield, Kyle's friend and neighbor, in February 2013 at a shooting range about 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Fort Worth.
Routh was driven to the range by Kyle, who had been helping fellow veterans heal the mental scars stemming from 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.
Defense attorneys did not dispute that Routh shot the men but pressed their case that he should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. They said he was in a paranoid psychotic episode and did not know his actions were wrong when he shot the two men. They said Routh suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, caused by overseas deployments.
Kyle's widow, Taya...said she knew something was amiss when she spoke by phone to Kyle at the shooting range, a scenic location he often visited to help fellow veterans trying to manage PTSD.
Taya Kyle said bonding over target practice helped her husband discuss difficult matters with veterans trying to adjust to life after battle.
"They can really talk and commiserate and get some healing done," she said of the outings.
Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash said Routh shot the two men multiple times in the back and stole the truck and weapons, knowing it was wrong.
Nash said Routh served as a weapons tech in a safe zone in Iraq. The defense told the jury that Routh was severely affected mentally by his earthquake relief efforts with the Marines in Haiti in 2010.
The trial is expected to take about two weeks. If Routh is convicted, prosecutors said they would seek a life sentence."