State News

Federal judge: Hennis court-martial can proceed

Posted March 16, 2010 6:12 p.m. EDT
Updated March 17, 2010 9:51 a.m. EDT

— A federal judge has rejected a motion to halt the court-martial of a retired soldier forced back into the Army to face charges in triple slaying that occurred a quarter-century ago in Fayetteville.

Lawyers for Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis argued last month that the military does not have the power to charge him in the killings. U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle ruled Tuesday that it would be inappropriate to decide that issue with a court-martial in progress.

Boyle dismissed the motion, allowing the case to continue through the military judicial system.

The 51-year-old Hennis is charged with premeditated murder in the May 1985 stabbing deaths of Kathryn Eastburn and two of her daughters in their Summerhill Road home in Fayetteville.

Hennis was convicted of the crimes in 1986, but the state Supreme Court threw out the conviction, saying prosecutors had improperly used graphic crime scene photos. During a second trial in 1989, Hennis was acquitted.

Investigators found DNA evidence several years ago that they say link Hennis to the slayings, but he couldn't be tried again in state court because of double jeopardy. So the Army recalled him to active duty in late 2006 so he could be tried in military court.

Opening statements are scheduled for Wednesday. The trial could last up to two months.