Hollywood meets reality in Texas for 'American Sniper' trial

Wed Feb 11, 2015 12:47pm EST
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By Jon Herskovitz

STEPHENVILLE, Texas (Reuters) - The timing, location and emotions came together at a Texas movie theater where 40 people watched the late showing of "American Sniper" just down the road from where a former Marine will stand trial for murdering the man whose story unfolded on the screen.

On Tuesday night, the crowd saw some of the final scenes in the life of Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL whose best-selling autobiography was turned into the film that has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture.

The screening ended shortly before midnight, less than 12 hours before the trial of the man charged with killing Kyle opened on Wednesday a few miles away at a court in Stephenville, where the trial is set to saturate a town near where he was fatally shot.

"It is kind of surreal to think about it. It is all so close, in so many ways," said Jenhifer Pratt, a 21-year-old student at Tarleton State University, who saw the movie with two of her friends.

Kyle, a ranch hand who turned soldier, was a familiar type of figure in Stephenville. Tarleton is a university known for its rodeo program, and Erath County is a place where hunting, guns and military service are the norm for the mostly rural county of sprawling ranches.

Kyle was fatally shot at a gun range in the county about two years ago. Eddie Ray Routh, a fellow veteran suffering from mental illness is charged with murdering Kyle, who had taken him to Rough Creek Lodge to help him cope with the mental scars from battle.

The staff at the lodge declined to speak on the matter. A gag order has prevented many people with first-hand knowledge of the incident from discussing the killing.

But at the Cinemark theater in Stephenville, one of many across the country showing the movie, opinions were plentiful and passionate.   Continued...

Taya Kyle (L), wife of slain Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, hugs a family member after they arrive for the opening day of the capital murder trial of former Marine Eddie Ray Routh at the Erath County Donald R. Jones Justice Center in Stephenville, Texas February 11, 2015. REUTERS/Tom Fox/Pool