With the trial set to begin for the man accused of killing Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL portrayed in the hit film "American Sniper," the death of Kyle's close friend, Chad Littlefield, often gets lost.
Former Marine Eddie Ray Routh is charged with capital murder in the death of both Kyle, then 38, and Littlefield, then 35, at a Texas gun range. The two friends took Routh, an Iraq War veteran, to the range on Feb. 2, 2013, apparently to help his transition from combat to civilian life. A range employee found the bodies of Littlefield and Kyle later that day; police say Routh, now 27, has admitted to the fatal shootings, and relatives claim he was suffering from PTSD at the time.
Details about Littlefield's life and death have been largely overlooked amid the attention paid to Kyle, now that "American Sniper" has made him a household name and cast his reputation as America's deadliest sniper in a largely heroic light. Littlefield is widely referred to as "Kyle's friend," mentioned only in passing -- but his friends and family paint a picture of a big-hearted family man gone too soon.
Kyle and Littlefield were workout partners and soccer dads. They often visited the firing range, both for professional training and to fulfill the mission of Kyle's charitable foundation, which helps veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. Littlefield was involved with Kyle's cause, and volunteered to install workout equipment in disabled veterans' homes.
Littlefield, a lifelong resident of Texas, was born in Dallas on Feb. 11, 1977. He graduated from DeSoto High School in 1995. At the time of his death, he had been working as the logistics manager for Eagle Labs, Inc., which sells industrial chemicals, in DeSoto.
"Chad would tell you he was a 'regular guy just taking care of business,' and was happiest spending time with his family and friends," his relatives wrote in an online obituary published in 2013. They called Littlefield their "rock," saying he was always there when they needed him -- dependable, responsible, and readily available to console loved ones.
Don and Judy Littlefield recently recounted their last day with the younger of their two sons in an interview with the Stephenville Empire-Tribune. Littlefield, a spiritual man, had visited them for lunch, his parents said, and hugged and kissed them before driving away in his truck. His mother recalled him telling her, “Mom, life is so good it's scary.” She said she would cherish the moment for the rest of her life.
"He would miss not being there to see his daughter grow up — to celebrate her accomplishments,” the Littlefields said of their son, whose daughter is now 9 years old. His widow, Leanne, survives him.
Released nationally on January 16, "American Sniper" has already raked in more than $282 million in ticket sales, making it the highest-grossing war film of all time.
Opening statements in Routh's trial are expected to begin on Wednesday, which would have been Littlefield's 38th birthday. His mother, along with Kyle's wife, Taya, are expected to take the stand as the first witnesses. Routh's attorneys are expected to use an insanity defense.