'American Sniper' Widow Taya Kyle Describes Day She Found Out Chris Kyle Was Dead

At first, she kept thinking it was a mistake.

ByABC News
May 1, 2015, 11:25 AM

— -- When Taya Kyle first heard that her husband, famed Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who had served four tours in Iraq, had been murdered at a Texas gun range, she kept thinking over and over that there had been some mistake.

“He was a survivor and a fighter, and honestly, I didn’t know how many times he had been shot,” Taya Kyle told ABC News' Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview.

“He had been in so many close calls that it didn’t seem real,” she said.

Watch the full interview, "Love. War. Renewal. The Taya Kyle Story," on a special edition of ABC News' "20/20" HERE.

Chris Kyle, a highly decorated SEAL, was the most lethal sniper in U.S. history, with 160 confirmed kills. As a SEAL sniper, Kyle was sent to the worst areas with the heaviest combat and had spent years in an out of Iraq.

But on Feb. 2, 2013, former Marine Eddie Ray Routh murdered Chris Kyle and Kyle's friend, Chad Littlefield, at the Texas hunting resort Rough Creek Lodge. Routh was convicted of capital murder in their shooting deaths on Feb. 24, 2015.

PHOTO: Book cover for Taya Kyle's memoir, "American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith and Renewal."
Book cover for Taya Kyle's memoir, "American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith and Renewal."

In the wake of her husband's death, Taya Kyle wrote a memoir, "American Wife: Love, War, Faith and Renewal," which details their love story, how she and her family dealt with his death, and her life as a military spouse. It will be released on Monday, May 4, in collaboration with Jim DeFelice and published by William Morrow Publishers.

Mark Treibly, who had played football with Chris Kyle in high school and is now an investigator with Midlothian, Texas, police, was the one who broke the news to Kyle’s wife.

“I remember looking in his eyes, so intently, and just saying, like, ‘Are you sure?’” Taya Kyle said. “Because I’ve had these scares before where I thought he was dead and he wasn’t. And he said, ‘Yes.’”

Telling their two young children, a son Chris had nicknamed “Bubba” and a daughter he had nicknamed, “Angel,” was the hardest thing Taya Kyle ever had to do, she said.

“I just told them something really bad had happened and that ‘Daddy got hurt,’” Kyle said. “And my daughter looked at me and she said, ‘Is he dead?’ And then I just shook my head, and then just this sound from her chest and her stomach. ... She was thinking, ‘That couldn’t possibly be true.’

“It’s just very hard to understand. ... ‘Why would he do that?’ You know, 'Why would somebody do that to Daddy?’” she added.

PHOTO: Chris Kyle is shown here in this undated photo with his best friend, Chad Littlefield.
Chris Kyle is shown here in this undated photo with his best friend, Chad Littlefield.

Nearly three years after coming home from Iraq for good, Chris Kyle had become a bestselling author with “American Sniper,” which chronicled his war experience and later became an Oscar-winning movie. He also began helping fellow veterans adjust to civilian life by taking them to Rough Creek Lodge. He found that hunting and target shooting helped veterans relax and open up.

On Feb. 2, 2013, Chris Kyle was doing just that with Routh, a former marine who graduated from the same high school as Kyle and served in Haiti after the deadly earthquakes, and Iraq - although he never saw combat.

Routh’s mother reached out to Chris Kyle for help with her son, who, after he returned home, was acting erratically, smoking marijuana, drinking heavily and even threatening suicide. Though he never met Routh, Chris Kyle agreed to help and asked Chad Littlefield to come with him to Rough Creek Lodge.

According to Routh’s attorney, Warren St. John, Chris Kyle had not informed Routh or his mother ahead of time about the trip to Rough Creek Lodge.

“It’s 200 miles of people lining the streets and every overpass ... and the bagpipers and people stopped on the other side of the freeway,” Taya Kyle said. “I mean, it was that feeling of patriotism and acceptance and that goes right in line with Chris’s life.”

Today, Taya Kyle said she has mixed feelings about the gun range where her husband spent so much of his time.

“It can be comforting that it was a peaceful place and he never saw it coming, and that makes me angry that somebody would-- Like, how evil do you have to be,” she said. “The people are there just to help you. It was a beautiful, sunny day.”