STEPHENVILLE, Texas (AP) — The sister of the former Marine accused of fatally shooting "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle and another man testified Wednesday that when her brother came to her home after the killings, he seemed "almost in a daze."
Laura Blevins, on the stand during the defense's first full day of testimony, said that when Eddie Ray Routh arrived, he told her he'd killed two people, The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/1E69sX9 ) reported.
"He said he took their souls before they could take his. I asked him what he meant by that, and he said they were out to get him," Blevins said.
Routh, 27, is charged in the Feb. 2, 2013 deaths of the famed former Navy SEAL sniper and his friend Chad Littlefield at a shooting range. The trial has drawn intense interest, partly because of an Oscar-nominated film based on Kyle's memoir.
Routh has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys are mounting an insanity defense. They say Routh was in a psychotic state at the time.
Blevins said that when she saw Kyle's truck, she began to fear he was telling the truth.
"When I was looking at him, he kind of looked like he was out of it, almost in a daze or something, and when I told him that I loved him, there was something in him that understood that," Blevins said.
Kyle had taken Routh on the outing after Routh's mother asked him to help her son, who family members have said suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq and in Haiti following a devastating 2010 earthquake.
Blevins testified that she'd distanced herself from her brother after he was hospitalized several times for mental health issues, fearing he could be a danger to her family.
Key points in the case:
On Feb. 2, 2013, Kyle, Littlefield and Routh drove to Rough Creek Lodge and Resort, which has a shooting range. About 5 p.m., a resort employee discovered the Kyle and Littlefield's bodies. Authorities say Routh arrived at his sister's Midlothian home about 45 minutes later.
Criminal law experts say a verdict hinges on whether the defense can prove Routh was insane and did not understand that the killings constituted a crime.
While prosecutors have described Routh as troubled, they've also said any history of mental illnesses should not absolve him of being accountable for the deaths.
"Mental illnesses, even the ones that this defendant may or may not have, don't deprive people of the ability to be good citizens, to know right from wrong," Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash said during opening statements.
And while testimony and evidence presented by prosecutors often included Routh making odd statements, he also confessed several times, apologized for the crimes and tried to evade police.
Routh's former girlfriend testified Wednesday that he would become enraged over minor incidents, once throwing a shoe across the room because he dropped his beer.
Jennifer Weed also testified about an incident two weeks before the killings in which Routh acted paranoid and wouldn't let her or her roommate leave their apartment, The Dallas Morning News reported. She said he grabbed a ninja sword and butcher knife, saying he was trying to protect them.
Weed's roommate called police and he was hospitalized for mental health treatment. He was released about a week later.
Weed testified that she visited Routh at his Lancaster home the night before the slayings and they got into a fight because he was smoking marijuana after saying he would quit. She said he behaved oddly during the fight.
"I asked him if he was seeing things, and he said, yes," Weed said. "He definitely had paranoia about the government out to get him."
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Jurors have three options: find Routh guilty of capital murder, find him not guilty or find him not guilty by reason of insanity. If convicted, Routh faces life in prison without parole. Prosecutors aren't seeking the death penalty. Even if he's acquitted, Routh could remain in custody. The Texas criminal code stipulates that in cases involving violent crimes where defendants are found not guilty by reason of insanity, the court can initiate civil proceedings to have them committed.
WHO WAS KYLE?
Kyle served made more than 300 kills as a sniper for SEAL Team 3, according to his own count. He earned two Silver Stars for valor. After leaving the military, he volunteered with veterans facing mental health problems, often taking them shooting.