Hennis found guilty of decades-old murders

By ARNEWS and ParaglideApril 9, 2010

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 9, 2010) -- A master sergeant who was acquitted by a North Carolina court more than 20 years ago was found guilty of murder again Thursday in a court-martial at Fort Bragg, N.C.

After three weeks of testimony, a 14-member military panel voted unanimously to find Master Sgt. Timothy B. Hennis guilty of three counts of premeditated murder.

Hennis had been convicted at his original trial for the 1985 stabbing murders of Kathryn Eastburn and her two young daughters, Erin and Kara, who lived just outside Fort Bragg. He was a sergeant and parachute rigger stationed on Bragg at the time.

Sentenced to death in 1986 by the state of North Carolina, the state's Supreme Court later overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial for Hennis, in which he was acquitted in 1989.

He returned to active duty in the Army upon his acquittal, and served until 2004 when he honorably retired as a master sergeant. In 2006, new DNA evidence was found which was not available in the 1980s. The Army then recalled Hennis to active duty to face a court-martial.

The 'double jeopardy' rule did not apply to the court-martial since Hennis was originally tried by the North Carolina court system and the military is a federal entity.

The court-martial started with opening statements March 17. Military Judge Col. Patrick Parrish presided over the trial. Former Air Force Capt. Gary Eastburn, the deployed husband of Kathryn Eastburn at time of the murders, sat through much of the testimony.

Capt. Matthew Scott from the prosecution said the accused left behind one thing: his sperm, found in the dead body of Kathryn. During his closing argument, Scott said the accuser's DNA is something that couldn't be cleaned up from the crime scene.

"All the evidence points squarely at the accused," said Scott. "It's time to answer that call for justice ... and time to find him guilty of the premeditated murders."

Hennis' defense lawyers, however, maintained innocence and said that Hennis was not the man who committed these heinous crimes. The defense argued that the DNA did not indicate murder, only that the two may have had an affair sometime before the slayings. The defense pointed out that male DNA found under the fingernails of all three murder victims came from someone other than Hennis.

Capt. Jody Young from the prosecution finished with, "End this here...end this now...it's been too long."

Sentencing procedures were scheduled to begin Friday.

(Eve Meinhardt of the Paraglide newspaper at Fort Bragg contributed to this report compiled by Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown of ARNEWS.)

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Hennis court-martial begins at Fort Bragg