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Army Pursuing Court-Martial in Triple Slaying

Posted August 17, 2007

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— Fort Bragg's commanding officer on Friday referred charges against a soldier charged in a 1985 triple murder to a general court-martial empowered to handle a capital sentence.

Master Sgt. Timothy B. Hennis is charged with three counts of premeditated murder in the May 9, 1985, stabbing deaths of Kathryn Eastburn, 32, and her daughters Erin, 3, and Kara Sue, 5, of Fayetteville.

Hennis was convicted in a civilian court and sentenced to death in 1986, but the North Carolina Supreme Court awarded him a new trial after finding his first trial was run unfairly and with weak evidence. A second jury acquitted Hennis in April 1989, and he retired from the Army in 2004.

Evidence connecting him to the crimes, however, prompted the military to recall Hennis to active duty last October so it could pursue charges in connection with the case.

In a May hearing, a State Bureau of Investigation agent testified that DNA tests from evidence collected 20 years earlier were degraded but provided clear matches for both Eastburn and Hennis.

Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, decided to dismiss a rape charge against Hennis, noting that the statute of limitations for the charge that was in effect in 1985 had run out.

In 1985, the Uniform Code of Military Justice set a three-year statute of limitations for rape. Although that statute of limitations was changed in 1986, the change was not retroactive, and the three-year limit applies to the rape charge against Hennis.

An arraignment hearing for Hennis hasn't been set.

4 Comments

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  • christinathefern Aug 18, 2007

    The average American citizen has nothing to worry about apple, unless they are a veteran...there is a saying that we veterans have "Uncle Sam can always reach out and touch you" The fact is, the military courts try not to step on the toes of the civilian courts and will often refer prosecution to the civilian courts..however, that soldier is always "government property" and if the civilian courts screwed up, then the military can step back in and make things right. This is another example though of the sacrifices military members make through their service, even after retirement or discharge, Uncle Sam can always snatch you back. My neighbor's 58 year old retired father got called back up 2 years ago, they aren't deploying him overseas because of his age and heart, but he sure is reporting to work at a military facility to take the place of someone they did ship overseas.

  • grnpnd7 Aug 17, 2007

    Sad situation but DNA doesn't lie...

  • WOLF EM Aug 17, 2007

    I followed this case (Both Trials) and really thought Hinnis to be innocent. I tend to agree with the first poster. But if Hinnis committed these crimes then convict him and do whatever. Ther was a saying though that has stuck with me. It goes something like I would rather have 10 people that are guilty go free than one person that is innocent go to jail. Think about it.........

  • applesmith Aug 17, 2007

    I feel a great deal of sadness for the family of the murder victims. The state tried this man 2 times, now some years later with the advent of dna technologies Fayetville police is going after him again through the military code of justice court system. From looking through old newspaper arhives i found articels where the military wanted nothing to do with this case and turned it over to a civillian court. Now with our system of judical checks and balances the fayetville police did circumvent the system of checks and balances. This sets a dangerous precident for others to be prosecuted unfairly, we as american citizens better take notice of this case. All it takes is a over zealous law enforcement officer to start the ball rolling for others to get the pickel.