American Sniper trial costs county $1 million

Eddie Ray Routh admitted to killing "American Sniper" Chris Kyle and fellow veteran Chad Littlefield on Feb. 2, 2013 and was convicted of capital murder on Feb 24, 2015. (Photo: Times Union)

Eddie Ray Routh admitted to killing “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and fellow veteran Chad Littlefield on Feb. 2, 2013 and was convicted of capital murder on Feb 24, 2015. (Photo: Times Union)

As Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper’s “American Sniper” rakes in an estimated $500 million at the box office, the Texas county that hosted the real life capital murder trial of Chris Kyle’s killer is tallying receipts of its own – expenditures adding up to $1 million.

Erath County commissioners met on Monday to discuss the costs associated with the trial of Eddie Ray Routh, the former Marine convicted of killing Kyle and fellow veteran Chad Littlefield on Feb. 2, 2013 at the Rough Creek Lodge shooting range, located about 25 miles southeast of Stephenville and 70 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

Auditor Janet Martin estimated the trial cost the county between $900,000 to $1 million and that she’s only received $350,000 in invoices so far, the Stephenville Empire-Tribune initially reported.

Erath County hosts a population of about 38,500, plus an additional 10,000 college students. It’s annual revenue is between $17.5 million to $19 million annually, so the trial will have a big impact on the city, Martin told Guns.com on Monday.

“That’s huge,” Martin said. “It’s a major expense.”

The county had to dip into its reserves and, depending on outside factors like gas prices and the general stability of the economy, could see an increase in property taxes as a result, Martin said. County employee salaries could also be significantly affected.

Capital trials are expensive and can’t be litigated by just any attorney, Martin said. Legal fees add up and because Routh was considered indigent, Erath County had to pick up fees for both the defense and prosecution.

To make matters worse, a bomb scare at the Erath County Courthouse threatened to delay the trial. Law enforcement was mobilized to answer that threat at a cost to the county.

“It was a huge deal,” Martin said.

Routh filed for appeal last week on the grounds that the conviction and sentence were contrary to the law and evidence, according to court documents.

Routh was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Feb. 24. The prosecution could have sought the death penalty, but early on said it would not.

Shortly after killing Kyle and Littlefield, Routh’s disability payments starting rolling in. He also reportedly received a back payment of $30,000 for the months since his honorable discharge from the Marine Corps that he didn’t receive compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Since then, Routh has received $2,906.83 each month, Veterans Affairs spokesperson Walinda West told Guns.com.

While imprisoned and pending trial, Routh’s money was being deposited into a bank account managed by his mother. Part of the funds were used toward a downpayment to buy a house for Routh’s sister. 

Warfighter News called Routh’s claim to PTSD into question after reviewing his military records and interviewing Marines he served with. Some of the former Marine’s stories of combat exposure didn’t match  what Warfighter found during its investigation. 

Because Routh was convicted of felony murder, his compensation will drop to a rate of 10 percent, or about $290 per month, 61 days after he was convicted, West said.