State News

Father, daughter tell of pain 1985 triple murder caused

Posted April 9, 2010

— The sole survivor of a brutal 1985 attack on a Fayetteville family told jurors Friday that she has no memory of her sisters or mother.

Jana Eastburn was 22 months old when her mother, Kathryn Eastburn, and siblings – 5-year-old Kara and 3-year-old Erin – were stabbed to death on May 9, 1985, in their Summerhill Road home.

Sketch of Gary Eastburn in court Family of murder victims recalls loss

Now 26, she told a military jury of her loss as the 14 Army officers and enlisted personnel consider whether Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis should die for the crimes or spend the rest of his life in prison.

The jury convicted Hennis, 52, a former Fort Bragg soldier, on Thursday of three counts of premeditated murder.

"I wish I had my sisters and my mom. I felt sad and alone. I didn't have anyone to look up to," Jana Eastburn said, crying throughout her testimony.

Police said Jana Eastburn had been left in her crib for up to three days before officers responding to concerns of neighbors entered the home on Mothers Day 1985 and found her unharmed amid the carnage.

"It makes me feel bad and guilty," she said, describing her visits to the family grave site in Kansas City. "I don't have that feeling for them."

Air Force Capt. Gary Eastburn, who was training in Alabama at the time of the slayings, testified that flying back to Fayetteville upon learning of the slayings of his wife and daughters was an "absolutely abysmal" experience.

"I can't describe the pain, the sense of loss," he said. "I was just a basket case, really."

Gary Eastburn said he is continually tormented by the fact that he wasn't home to defend his family.

"It was my failure as a father. Were they looking for dad? I feel bad. When they needed (me) most, I wasn't there," he said.

He reared Jana by himself but said he often wonders what Kara and Erin would be like had they lived.

"I've missed their lives. I'm really bitter about that. Nobody has a right," he said before trailing off and grabbing a tissue.

Jurors also heard from Kathryn Eastburn's mother, Jane Furnish. She recalled a young Jana asking her, "Grandma, I know you're not my mommy, but can I call you that?"

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.

Defense attorneys are scheduled to begin Monday presenting their case to persuade the jury to spare Hennis' life.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • rjernigan6 Apr 12, 2010

    None of us know for sure that he did or didn't do this. The fact is he was tried by a jury of his peers and found guilty. I think the evidence is questionable but he was found guilty.

    As for the break in service, a discharge prior to re-enlistment was standard practice but has been stopped in recent years. That was not a true discharge as you were never dropped from the muster. As for a 98% conviction rate in Courts Martial it has nothing to do with your career. I've sat jury duty on a court martial for a rape case. We found the defendant NOT GUILTY. The reason, the prosecution did not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was guilty. I felt he was but there were doubts so I couldn't convict. The young man faced life in prison if found guilty. I was never threatened with my career and have since been promoted twice so quit assuming. I've lived the life of the Corps for 24 years and I know a little something about it.

    Semper Fi,
    Top J

  • Ready for Summer Apr 12, 2010

    Until more proof is shown to show he raped and killed her, I will never believe that he is guilty.
    Also Rev RB, not sure if you are aware of how it works in the military, but Mr. Hennis will be able to have another trial. Also did you follow the piece to where you cannot be tried for something that happened prior to a break in service. Mr. Hennis did have a break in service.

  • Ready for Summer Apr 12, 2010

    factors from the scene that proved his guilt and it was shown beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty, as well as him admitting.

    There were so many other factors involved where this case (Hennis) the only thing showing is DNA from a sexual encounter.

    Yes, you are entitled to your own thoughts and opinions just as I am along with anyone else. Only thing that was found DNA wise of Mr. Hennis was his sperm and that does not mean he raped her. It could be that she had willing sex with him. Last I checked, finding someone’s sperm inside of another person doesn't prove that the person was killed by the person nor does sperm cause one to be stabbed. Who is to say that he didn't have some sort of relationship with her and after he left someone else came to the house and that person was the one that killed her and her innocent children? There were foot prints, those prints didn't match Mr. Hennis either.
    Until move proof is shown to show he raped and killed her, I will n

  • Ready for Summer Apr 12, 2010

    Rev RB- You made the comment "I'm Sure" towards my comment when I said only people that are sure are the ones present and GOD. I have one question for you, were you physically there when this crime took place? I am willing to bet that you weren't, so therefore you cannot say "I'm Sure!!" You have no clue who was present, who did the crime and who was not present. This is all speculation on your behalf. There are only a select few who know this information. Three of those people are no longer here, one is still here and he proclaims his innocence and last but not least above all is GOD that knows! Unless you are any of those people, you yourself cannot say "I'm Sure."
    Don't get me wrong I am not for one minute disregarding the feelings of the innocent ones and the family of the ones that were killed. I feel their pain and know all to well that pain as I have had someone in my family that was raped and murdered. This happened to a family member before DNA was big but there were other f

  • Adelinthe Apr 9, 2010

    This is more inclusive of most of the questions we've seen here today with regard to military justice.

    God bless.


  • Adelinthe Apr 9, 2010

    Military Law - Does the u.s. constitution apply to military personnel?

    Sort of, but not exactly the way it does in civilian life. While military personnel are not excluded from the rights set forth in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution grants Congress the power to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.

    As a practical matter, most civilian Constitutional rights are afforded to military personnel - although with some differences to fit the military situation. In some areas, such as right to counsel and rights (Miranda) warnings, military personnel have broader protections than those contained in the Constitution. In other areas such as search and seizure, they have reduced expectations of privacy and fewer protections.

    Military appellate courts tend to interpret military law as being consistent with Constitutional protections so far as is possible.

  • storm912 Apr 9, 2010

    The Court hereby directs Respondents [essentially the Army] to file a supplemental memorandum on or before,addressing the following issues: (1) double jeopardy; (2) abstention; (3) declining to entertain this petition until Petitioner has exhausted all available military remedies; and (4) Petitioner’s status as a member of the military during the time between his expiration of term of service (“ETS”) date during his State incarceration, his subsequent release from State custody, and his re-enlistment.

    Why would A Federal Judge want A Memorandum on all these issues, then later state these are all Appealable issues if the Court Martial ends in A Conviction?

  • Adelinthe Apr 9, 2010

    storm912 - "I believe the first line does Mention Constitution, I believe if your going to Support and Defend something as Powerful as Our Constitution. You should be entitled to all your rights under the Constitution. How do you think an Appellate Judge might read that?"

    Yeah, I thought that too - until I enlisted and served.

    Once you take the oath and sign the contract - that's when they tell you the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) is all you live by and the only recourse you have for that is through a military tribunal, not a civilian court.

    You swear to UPHOLD the Constitution but you live by and are adjudicated by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

    They can work you 24/7/365, and there's nothing anyone can do about it, because that's the way training and fighting to win the wars is done. Those fighting in wars don't punch out at 5 PM.


    God bless.


  • Adelinthe Apr 9, 2010


    Her body also showed self-defense type injuries which belies the claim of the consensual sex he claims.

    I've sat on a jury, and the one thing it taught me was, never think you've heard everything a jury heard just from media resources. Far more is covered in a trial than can be presented on a 30 minute news show or on the front page of a newspaper.

    So unless you've heard everything they heard, you can't assume to know why they made the decision they did.

    God bless.


  • storm912 Apr 9, 2010

    "I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).

    I believe the first line does Mention Constitution, I believe if your going to Support and Defend something as Powerful as Our Constitution. You should be entitled to all your rights under the Constitution. How do you think an Appellate Judge might read that?