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.