April 17, 2009

Tim Hennis: Charged Twice for the Same Murders 20 Years Apart

Tim Hennis being led into court in 1985. Source: Army Times

For whatever reason, the Tim Hennis case has not made big news recently, or back in 1985. It's an interesting case for many, many reasons.



Briefly, Air Force wife Katie Eastburn and her two daughters, Kara and Erin, were found murdered on Mother's Day, 1985, in their home at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Sounds familiar, right? Shades of the Jeffrey MacDonald case, with the military/Fort Bragg/wife and two daughters being murdered. Additionally, the Eastburns' teenage babysitter had kept up a correspondence with Jeffrey MacDonald while he was incarcerated. Here are the differences though - - Katie Eastburn was raped and youngest daughter, baby Jana, was left alive. Husband Gary wasn't at home, either. He was in Alabama at flight school.



Tim Hennis was charged with the murders in 1985. He had a connection to the Eastburns, having picked up their dog, Dixie. (The Eastburns were preparing to relocate to England and didn't feel the dog would survive the trip). Hennis was also in the Army and despite there being no DNA match to him, or physical evidence that put him in the home that night, based on his identification as being in the neighborhood that night by one Patrick Cone, he was convicted in a civilian court and sentenced to death in 1986.



In 1989, Hennis' conviction was overturned and he was granted a new trial, where he was eventually acquitted.



A book and miniseries was done on the case and it seemed that barring a confession, the Eastburn murders might never be solved.



Fast forward to late 2006. Tim Hennis was living in Washington State with his wife and two children, having retired as a Master Sergeant from the Army after serving in the Gulf War. The Army called him back to duty, moved him back to Fort Bragg and then charged him with the murders of Katie, Kara and Erin Eastburn (the rape charge was not included as the statute of limitations had expired) based on new DNA evidence linking Hennis to the murders.



While there are some that believe the Army is once again going after an innocent man, or are determined to save face by charging someone, anyone with these horrible murders, I don't see it that way at all. I am undecided on Hennis' actual innocence or guilt, but I feel that the Army must have some damn good and strong evidence in order to bring a man back from retirement and charge him with the same crime he was acquitted of in a state court twenty years earlier.



Several things I have recently read do give me pause. First, Hennis and his wife were watching t.v. back in 1985 and heard the news reports of the Eastburn murders, with the announcer requesting anyone with information to please contact the police - - which Hennis did, voluntarily. He and his wife went to the police the next day to state that Hennis had been to the Eastburn home to adopt their dog - - it was days after this that he was arrested and charged with the murders. If he was guilty, would he have done this? Maybe. Maybe not. I also read that during Hennis' recent Article 32 hearing a DNA analyst from the SBI testified that the DNA profile she pulled from sperm found in Katie Eastburn at the time of her autopsy likely belonged to Hennis; the odds of it not being him were 12.1 thousand trillion to one.

Barring faulty DNA evidence, I don't see how you can argue with that last point. 12.1 thousand trillion is an inexplicable number. Should the defense be unable to attack the SBI's test results, I see a conviction in Hennis' future - - and the Army is seeking the death penalty.

The defense reportedly did not contradict that finding - - but did question an evidence technician as to the chain of command in storing the DNA evidence all these years, as well as stating how good of a man and citizen Hennis has been for the last 20 years.

The court martial is currently scheduled to convene on July 7.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

what's the latest on this case... anyone?
i've followed this case for years and i don't believe that he is not guilty. i think the police department blew this investigation and this DNA evidence is weak.. but, it's an opportunity to revist the case. the fact that he to date he hasnt been retried for the crime leads me to think... once again there is no evidence to convict this man. And i trust the testimony of the woman who actually saw the man leaving the Eastburn home in the early am.

Lori said...

I did some follow up this morning and it seems that the trial date was pushed back to mid-September but the defense is attempting to get another motion to delay the start of the trial until January.

So it looks like this case may not go to trial until next year - - a lot of additional stress on both the Eastburn and Hennis families.

Anonymous, I think if the DNA technology we have today was available back in 1985 there would be a definitive answer to this case one way or the other. I believe there must be some strong evidence suggesting Hennis' guilt for the Army to try him in a military court - I don't think they would have taken that step without very careful consideration and incriminating evidence.

I guess we will have to wait and see what happens during the trial!

Anonymous said...

I too have followed Tim's trial and subsequent release. I went to High School with him and was stunned when all this first happened. I certainly have no idea of his guilt or innocence and will continue to follow this.

Anonymous said...

I served with Tim in the same unit of the 82nd Airborne Division for three years (1982-1984). I was friends with him and I find it very hard to believe that he could have done this horrible crime. He was a very laid-back guy who never got mad at anyone, no matter how much we ribbed him.

Anonymous said...

I served with Tim at Fort Bragg for approx. two years 1984-85 as a Parachute Rigger for the 600th quartermaster company, and considering he was my squad leader I thoutht I had gotten to know him pretty well and I gotta tell ya, from spending as much time around him as I did I honesetly don't believe he did this unbelieveably horrible crime.

Anonymous said...

Google News Alert for: Eastburn Murders
Published: 06:35 AM, Wed Oct 14, 2009
Military judge denies DNA testing in Hennis case
FayObserver.com - Fayetteville,NC,USA
They have DNA from a vaginal swab taken Eastburn's body, which they say links Hennis to the murder. They acknowledged they have no other physical evidence ...
http://www.fayobserver.com/Articles/2009/10/13/942734

Anonymous said...

I went out with him for 2 years and I can't beleive he would do this.

Anonymous said...

If any grown man can rape a women then kill her and two small children should be killed slowly and suffer a long slow painful death i have a 4 year old and a two year old and a one yr old and i cant imagine what it would be like to lose them to a killer and now kara and erins dad has to relive this murder of his wife and daughters and his other child has to watch this go down i hope this man rots in hell they need justice
it scares the shit out of us that this man this killer is here on the same post as us shops where we shop eats where we eat walks where we walks he needs to suffer for what he has done the sick bastard
from
robertson family
fort bragg north carolina

Anonymous said...

I am reading the book right now-I can't believe anyone could or would implicate themselves in such a horrible murder/murders, if he only went to get a dog. But the psyochotic has not bounds. I do belive that the defense was railroaded with some of the evidence. But, I think that anyone charged with such a horrible act would react emotionally, physically or psychotically. Mr. Hennis turned numb which I think bothers me the most. My indications are that he did indeed commit the murder's of 2 innocent children and the mother. I think that the only reason he spared the baby in the crib was because he had a little one. If he didn't do it-God will be the judge and jury over the person that did.

Anonymous said...

I worked with Tim for 4 years. Served in the Gulf war with him. I spoke to him on a daily basis. I have even listened to his side of this very story from his own lips. I will never believe that he did this. As for the DNA..sex maybe, murder and rape, NO!

Anonymous said...

The TC(Prosecution) need to give up on the ATM transactions.AS seen by the C.Q. Runner The Sgt. was on C.Q. when one of the transactions occurred.And the C.Q. Logs backs up his times.Other statements either read or said,"he was seen" burning trash at 9am.Not trash was burning "he was burning."So there is no tie what so ever of him ever using the ATM cards.I don't understand if the TC had such a strong case why does this look like A exact Mock Trial of his 2ND Trial in 89?The papers have already read that the DNA testing that the TC sent off one came up 0% match and the other .07%,so there's no match there.If you do the math according to the Article.The only test so far that even suggest was the one the Civilians turned over in 2007.My biggest Question is why would the Military take this case,when the same Civilian Law Enforcement said how poorley the Military had done in handling The Fatal Vision Case.Am I the only one that doesn't understand this case?There is just no hard evidence pointing twoard his Guilt.And the members of the Jury are much smarter than me.I don't think it will even make it to the final phase of the Court Martial.Remember The TC (Defense Counsel)has to be able to prove there Case before The defense Laywers get there turn to rebut everything from the (TC)It most Captial Case's in The MIlitary Each Side gets about 4 weeks a piece.Then The Jury Deliberates.Since 14 were selected all 14 will have a vote.So the Math is even more complicated for any kind of conviction.This paper keeps up with it daily.But keep in mind they are trying to sell papers too.So they keep the Drama High.But if everyone reads it,its all been a He said She Said,no real eveidence so far.
http://www.fayobserver.com

Anonymous said...

Guilty. The bastard is guilty and will now have to face life in prison or death. Justice is finally served to the Eastburn family. May those lost and those spared finally rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

I have known Tim since I was 7 years old,I am thirty now.I can't tell you he did or did not do it, but I can say I could never see him ever killing kids. There is alot to this trial that is not posted like the babysitter being an issue.To be honest maybe I could see him killing the woman but I'm telling all of you he would never kill kids, never.This is a true wrong to him and his family and the family of the victims.I hate that all I see is his dna and nothing else,lets be real would he really just show up to talk to the police on his free will.He brought his wife to the lady's house and then killed them.I'm not playing myself about this, I know Ted Bundy was a nice guy too, but he would never go to the police after his crime and answer questions.There is so much that is not coming out. I feel for all party's in this case.

Anonymous said...

SO sad two families destroyed over an one-nite stand between to couples who spouses are out of town.

Mr. Tim Hennis may be innocent and a fall guy. For what ever reason this crime happen may lay with the baby sister and her friends and the people she work with.

Mr. Hennis mistake was picking up more then just a dog and now he may have to pay with his own life.

sheldon said...

DNA never lies he denied having sex with her up till the third trial. He is guilty as sin and should die. I hope the prisoners kill him. It was a cold case that is now closed.

sheldon said...

DNA never lies he denied having sex with her up till the third trial. He is guilty as sin and should die. I hope the prisoners kill him. It was a cold case that is now closed.

Lori said...

Thank you, everyone, for your comments. This is truly one of those cases that emotionally affects everyone deeply.
I have updated this post, as well as my earlier ones, on my other blog. Please stop by, read it and comment.
I am curious to know how many think Hennis is guilty beyond all doubt or if he is indeed a fall guy.

My follow up post is here:
http://tvnirvana.blogspot.com/2010/09/tim-hennis-sentenced-to-death.html

Happy Sunday!

Anonymous said...

I watched the program on 20/20 about this case. And for all of you commenting that you cannot believe he would do this - think again. None of really know what we would do in certain situations. Those 2 little girls were killed, I believe, to prevent them from identifying the killer. So there is a plausible reason, right there, for how and why he could have killed them. And the way he did it? He slit all of their throats, just like he was trained to do in the service.

Anonymous said...

I was interested to read that everyone who had contact with Hennis could not believe he would do what he went to trial for. It reminds me of my son-in-law who tried to kill my grandson, more than once. No one, including my husband could believe he was, "that kind of guy." It was never proven but my grandson was blind when he came to and is blind to this day, 38 years later. You don't really know anyone.