Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Double Jeopardy: Master Sergeant Timothy Hennis


On January 21, 2011, at a Fort Leavenworth appeal, Timothy Hennis's lawyers argued that reported irregularities at the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation meant that the DNA evidence against Hennis had potentially been compromised and that Hennis should have a fresh trial. Brenda Bissette Dew, who'd worked on the Hennis materials, had been cited for writing misleading reports in two dozen other cases. According to Lt. Col. Andrew Glass, this important piece of information would have discredited Bissette Dew and her lab report, which might have changed the outcome of the trial. Prosecutors countered that the defense didn't question the reliability of the DNA tests at the 2010 trial, nor did they present the results of their independent tests.

In January 2011, Col. Patrick Parrish denied Hennis's request for a new trial. The request then went to Maj. Gen. Rodney Anderson, who served in place of Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, deployed to Iraq.

Meanwhile, Hennis's attorneys simultaneously argued that the Army should not have called him back to duty for a court martial on a case that had been tried in a civilian court. The break in his service, they argue, made him ineligible for this court martial. They appealed the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that he should not have to exhaust his military appeals before seeking a federal court ruling. Allen tried to persuade the court that the military appeals process would take too long and was unfairly postponing the life of what he maintained was an innocent man. As of November 2011, the arguments were still pending.

<em>Innocent Victims</em> Book Cover
Innocent Victims Book Cover

Perhaps writer Scott Whisnant's pet theory will still get a shot. Covering the case for the Wilmington Morning Star and then for his controversial 1993 book, Innocent Victims, left him wondering if this the Eastburn murders were connected another strange case in the area. In 1970, Fort Bragg Army surgeon Jeffrey MacDonald was accused of killing his pregnant wife and two children. He blamed LSD-crazed hippies for his family's murders and his own minor wounds, but was found guilty in 1979. The Eastburns' babysitter, Whisnant notes, was obsessed with the case and corresponding with MacDonald. Whisnant has told the New Yorker he still believes Hennis is innocent.

But Gary Eastburn hopes the case won't go for a fourth trial. He told the New Yorker that the trials get tougher as he gets older. He's remarried (he and his second wife are planning a return to England), but it hasn't erased the pain of losing his wife and two of their babies. Their third daughter, Jana, still finds her life overshadowed by the tragic deaths of family members she doesn't even remember.

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