Local News

June Trial Set for Soldier Charged in Triple Slaying

Posted September 18, 2007 2:48 p.m. EDT
Updated September 18, 2007 4:24 p.m. EDT

— A retired soldier recalled to active duty to face charges in a triple slaying 22 years ago will be tried by court-martial next June, a military judge said Tuesday.

Master Sgt. Timothy B. Hennis, 49, 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 and moved to Washington state.

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.

Military officials dismissed a rape charge against Hennis, noting that the statute of limitations for the charge that was in effect in 1985 had run out. But they are seeking the death penalty on the three murder charges.

At an 11-minute arraignment Tuesday morning, Hennis deferred on selecting the composition of the jury for the court-martial proceedings. He can request a panel made entirely of officers or have at least one-third of the panel be enlisted soldiers senior in rank to him.

A pretrial hearing in the case has been set for Jan. 7.

Hennis has been working at Fort Bragg headquarters and isn't restricted on the base, officials said, so he is free to move about the community.