At 3rd Trial, Sergeant Guilty of 1985 Triple Murder

Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis guilty of triple murder at Ft. Bragg court martial.

ByABC News
April 8, 2010, 6:06 PM

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., April 8, 2010— -- Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis was convicted once before of killing Kathryn Eastburn and her daughters, Kara, 5, and Erin, 3. He even spent several years on death row awaiting execution after his 1986 conviction, but he gained his freedom after an appeal and acquittal at a second trial in 1989.

After that, he continued his career in the Army.

Big mistake.

Years later, the move allowed prosecutors to put him on trial yet again -- and a U.S. Army court martial jury today unanimously found Hennis guilty of murdering Eastburn and her daughters nearly 25 years ago.

In the penalty phase of the court martial beginning Friday, Hennis could be sentenced to death a second time for the same crime.

The Fifth Amendment normally protects people from double jeopardy -- that is, being tried for a crime of which they've already been acquitted.

There are, however, exceptions. The federal government -- in this case, the Army -- may try a suspect for a crime in spite of an earlier acquittal.

The reason is as old as the nation itself: The federal government is a separate sovereign from the individual states; a different entity.

Army prosecutors accused Hennis of turning the Eastburn home, near Ft. Bragg on the outskirts of Fayetteville, N.C., into a house of horrors in early May 1985, a few days before Mother's Day.

Hennis had adopted Eastburn's dog and apparently discovered that her husband, Gary, who was in the Air Force, was away, according to prosecutors' claims in the case, United States v. Master Sgt. Timothy B. Hennis.

Hennis returned to the house a few days later, tied up and raped Kathryn Eastburn and murdered her and her daughters, stabbing them a total of 35 times, prosecutors said. Before leaving the house, they added, Hennis cleaned up and stole an ATM card and money from Kathryn Eastburn's purse.

Hennis retired from his post-acquittal Army stint in 2004. However, in 2006, after cold case detectives with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office sent evidence out for forensic testing not available at the time of the earlier trials, the Army recalled Hennis to active duty and charged him with the killings.