Local News

Class at Wake Tech Led to New Charges in 1985 Triple Homicide

Posted March 25, 2008 6:33 p.m. EDT
Updated March 25, 2008 9:54 p.m. EDT

— A continuing education class for law enforcement officers ultimately led to new charges in a 1985 triple homicide case involving a Fort Bragg soldier.

That's according to educators at Wake Technical Community College, who say Sgt. Larry Trotter, with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, took an interest in the case of Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis.

Author Scott Whisnant, who wrote a book in 1993 about the case, was speaking to a class studying cold-case investigations.

"The instructor happened to mention this case back in the mid-80s, and it kind of sparked one of the students to go back and push for DNA testing as a result of this class," said Anthony Caison, Wake Tech's public safety dean.

Hennis was in the Army in May 1985, when Kathryn Eastburn and two of her three daughters, 5-year-old Kara and 3-year-old Erin, were killed. He was convicted in state court and sentenced to death, then acquitted in a retrial in 1989.

He retired from the military in 2004, but was called back to active duty in October 2006 to face new charges against him from the military.

Hennis' attorney, Frank Spinner, says the new DNA evidence is the only reason his client was re-charged after 18 years.

"The DNA is the reason we're here," Spinner said.

Wake Tech leaders say the Hennis case is an example that lessons learned in continuing education cases – used to sharpen skills of law enforcement officers – can apply in real life.

"To actually see something come back as a result of a training we have delivered is fantastic," Caison said.

"It doesn't surprise me that somebody would obtain a new skill, learn a new way of doing something and be able to take it back to their job," said Duke University police officer Chris Day, who takes continuing education courses at Wake Tech.