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GI cleared in 1989 faces trial on same allegation

A soldier cleared of a triple murder in civilian court 18 years ago will face a military court-martial for the same crimes, an Army general ordered Friday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A soldier acquitted of a triple slaying in civilian court 18 years ago will face a court-martial for the same crimes, an Army general ordered Friday.

The Army will try Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis on three counts of premeditated murder in the May 1985 deaths of Kathryn Eastburn, 31, and two of her daughters — Kara Sue, 5, and Erin Nicole, 3.

“We’re prepared to roll up our sleeves and work tirelessly to vindicate the name and reputation of Timothy Hennis,” said Hennis’ attorney, Frank Spinner.

Hennis was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1986, but the state 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 1989.

Hennis retired from the military in 2004, but was recalled to active duty last year after a detective reviewing the case uncovered DNA evidence that couldn’t be tested using technology available in the mid-1980s.

State officials couldn’t charge Hennis again, so the new evidence was given to the Army, which then recalled Hennis and began an investigation into the deaths. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

In ordering the court-martial, 18th Airborne Corps commander Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin dismissed a rape charge. In 1985, the military had a three-year statute of limitations on rape charges. The limit was changed in 1986, but not made retroactive.

Hennis was arrested shortly after Eastburn was found stabbed to death in her home near Fort Bragg. Hennis had adopted the family’s dog several days before the murders.

Eastburn’s husband, Air Force Capt. Gary Eastburn, was in Alabama at squadron officers training school at the time. The couple’s third child, 22-month-old Jana Eastburn, was found unharmed in her crib.