Local News

Soldier accused in triple homicide wants victim's neighbor to testify

Posted March 1, 2010 2:27 p.m. EST
Updated March 1, 2010 4:51 p.m. EST

Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis leaves the federal courthouse in Raleigh on Feb. 26, 2010, after a hearing in which he challenged the Army's right to try him for three 1985 slayings in Fayetteville.

— Lawyers for a former Fort Bragg soldier charged with killing a Fayetteville woman and her two daughters 25 years ago asked Monday that they be allowed to call one of the woman's neighbors as a witness.

The move came as Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis awaits word from a federal judge on whether his court-martial, which is set to begin Tuesday, can proceed.

Hennis was convicted in 1986 in the deaths of Kathryn Eastburn and two of her children. The state Supreme Court then threw out the conviction, ruling that prosecutors used graphic photos of the crime scene to inflame jurors, and he was acquitted in a 1989 retrial.

The Army forced Hennis back into uniform in 2006 to face a court-martial after civilian investigators reported that DNA testing linked him to the crime.

Hennis' lawyers have contended that Eastburn must have known her assailant since there was no sign of forced entry into the home. They want to call former neighbor Bruce Williamson as a witness during the court-martial.

Prosecutors asked Col. Patrick Parrish, the military judge handling the case, to block the move, saying there was no evidence linking Williamson to the crime scene. Parrish didn't immediately rule on the issue.

Hennis has filed a federal lawsuit against the Army, maintaining that the military has no jurisdiction to try him for the slayings.

His civilian attorneys argued last Friday that he was discharged from the Army in 1989 and that courts have previously ruled that the military cannot charge members of the armed services who have been discharged with crimes committed while they were still in service.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle on Monday asked both sides to detail their arguments in the next two weeks so that he can rule in the case.