Local News

Soldier's family pleads for jury to spare his life

Posted April 12, 2010

— The family of a former Fort Bragg soldier convicted of killing a Fayetteville woman and two small children in 1985 on Monday begged a military jury not to sentence him to death for the crimes.

The panel of 14 Army officers and enlisted personnel last week found Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis guilty of three counts of premeditated murder and is considering his sentence.

Convicted soldier portrayed as loving father Convicted soldier portrayed as loving father

Kathryn Eastburn and two of her daughters, 5-year-old Kara and 3-year-old Erin, were stabbed to death in their Summerhill Road home on May 9, 1985.

"I don't want to be left alone," a sobbing Beth Brumfield, Hennis' sister, told jurors.

When asked how she felt about Hennis after his conviction, Brumfield said, "I still love him. I believe in him" before putting her head into her hands and breaking down.

Brumfield, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., tearfully recalled the events of the past few years, when Hennis was recalled to active duty to be tried for the murders and both of their parents died.

"It's taken a toll on the family," she said.

Hennis' sister-in-law, Anita Pellot, of Carolina Beach, also sobbed through her testimony, calling Hennis "a father to me."

Pellot said Hennis' 18-year-old son, Andrew, collapsed last week when he heard his father had been convicted.

"He just crumbled in my arms. I just said, 'It'll be OK. He's still going to be available to you in other ways.' He was just devastated," Pellot said.

Kristina Mowry, Hennis' 25-year-old daughter, called him "my hero."

"I love spending time with my father," Mowry said, recalling how he read to her every night as a child.

Several military colleagues described Hennis as an excellent soldier and professional who was dedicated to his family.

"The Sgt. Hennis I know is a good person," said Col. Joseph Williams, of Portland, Ore., who said they became friends after working together at Fort Lewis, Wash. "He was a good (non-commissioned officer). He's been a good friend. He's been with me and my kids and my family.

"I respect the conclusion the (military jury) panel came to ... but I still hold Tim Hennis in high regard," Williams said under cross-examination by Army prosecutors.

The military trial is Hennis' third for the crimes. He was convicted in state court in 1986 but won an appeal and was acquitted in a second trial three years later. He finished out his service in the Army and retired to Washington state.

Years later, DNA tests not available in the 1980s linked Hennis to sperm found on Kathryn Eastburn. Because Hennis couldn't be tried in state court again, the case was turned over to the Army to pursue a court-martial.

On Monday, defense attorneys read testimony that Hennis' father gave during the 1986 trial. Bob Hennis, who died in 2007, described his son as "very much a doting father."

The military jury is expected to hear closing arguments Tuesday afternoon from military prosecutors and defense attorneys before beginning their deliberations on Hennis' fate.

29 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • nufsaid Apr 12, 7:40 p.m.

    How about life without parole or visitation?

  • twc Apr 12, 6:09 p.m.

    Should we do to his family what he did to his victim's family or should we let him live out his life behind bars?

    As much as I favor the death penalty I believe in this case it would just add more victims.

    But even if he gets the death penalty he would die of old age before it is ever carried out.

  • Vietnam Vet Apr 12, 5:51 p.m.

    D. THE COST OF LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE VS THE DEATH PENALTY

    Many opponents present, as fact, that the cost of the death penalty is so expensive (at least $2 million per case?), that we must choose life without parole ("LWOP") at a cost of $1 million for 50 years. Predictably, these pronouncements may be entirely false. JFA estimates that LWOP cases will cost $1.2 million - $3.6 million more than equivalent death penalty cases.

    I guess we can find numbers to support anybody's position... This is the result of a google search for "cost of the death penalty". See www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?did=108 for further info.

  • Spirit Warrior Woman - Rev. RB Apr 12, 5:42 p.m.

    "The family of a former Fort Bragg soldier convicted of killing a Fayetteville woman and two small children in 1985 on Monday begged a military jury not to sentence him to death for the crimes."

    I wonder if the two little girls sobbed and begged him not to hurt their mommy before he butchered them all.

    No pity from me here.

    An eye for an eye.

    God bless.

    RB

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Apr 12, 5:38 p.m.

    wildcat, you're confusing me. Do you WANT the Death Penalty, or do you want Life in Prison? I'm an eye for an eye type of person. If you are going to inflict pain on someone in an illegal manner, you should have to experience the SAME pain as you dish out. You seem to be wussing out and not willing to punish this man as he should be punished.

  • wildcat Apr 12, 5:23 p.m.

    If the courts give him life in prison with no parole-----then his life would be spare. The death penalty will not spare his life.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Apr 12, 5:22 p.m.

    Sorry wildcat, I'm TOTALLY against letting a man live. If he's given Life in Prison, he has the chance to escape. And you and I both know it happens periodically. If you sentence them to Death, they still spend 12 to 18 years in prison thinking about what they've done. But they are under higher security and escape is next to impossible. Then they die. Its the best of both worlds.

  • wildcat Apr 12, 5:15 p.m.

    This man's life SHOULD be taken, as he can offer nothing more to society.

    No!! LIFE IN PRISON WITHOUT PAROLE!

  • storm912 Apr 12, 5:12 p.m.

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    May God be with all the Families !!!!

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Apr 12, 5:11 p.m.

    If a human being has NOTHING to offer society, their life means nothing. This man's life SHOULD be taken, as he can offer nothing more to society.

More...