Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Double Jeopardy: Master Sergeant Timothy Hennis

Overkill: Three Brutal Murders

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Timothy Hennis booking photo.
Timothy Hennis booking photo.

When Kathryn Eastburn and two of her daughters were brutally murdered near Fort Bragg just before Mother's Day in 1985, police quickly closed in on a suspect: Master Sergeant Timothy Hennis was tried and sentenced to death the very next year.

But in 1989, Hennis won the right to a new trial; this time, he was acquitted.

That might have been the end of his part in the story. After all, the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that no one can be twice prosecuted for a single crime. But there are some loopholes there, and one of them tightened around Hennis's neck: Civilian and military courts operate independently. Hennis was acquitted by a civilian court, but, according to most accepted interpretations, the Fifth Amendment does not prohibit a court martial for the same crimes.

In 2010, in view of DNA evidence based on technology not yet available during his earlier trials, a military court sentenced Hennis to death. Hennis still maintains that he's innocent. His lawyers are still disputing the legality of the court martial. And the Eastburns are still mourning Kathryn and the two girls.


Overkill

Kathryn Eastburn
Kathryn Eastburn

Gary and Kathryn Eastburn married in 1975 after meeting at a softball game. He became the chief of air traffic control at Pope Air Force Base, near Fayetteville, North Carolina. In 1985 he accepted a transfer to a job in England.

Worried about putting their English Setter in quarantine as UK pet regulations demand, they decided to leave her behind. Kathryn Eastburn took out an ad in the Beeline Grab Bragg, a free classifieds paper serving Fort Bragg and Pope AFB, offering the dog to a good home for just $10.

Timothy Hennis and his wife, Angela, decided to take the dog, if it got along with their Spitz. On a May Tuesday, he met with Kathryn Eastburn at her home at 367 Summerhill Road and left with the dog.

Gary Eastburn was at squadron officers' training school in Montgomery, Alabama. He started worrying when he didn't receive his wife's planned Saturday morning phone call. On Sunday, Captain Eastburn finally got a call, but it was from a detective.

Neighbor Bob Seefeldt had noticed that the family's newspapers were starting to pile up and he hadn't seen anyone for a while. When Seefeldt dropped by to knock on the door, he heard a crying baby. He called police, who encountered a grisly scene.

Kara, 5, had been stabbed repeatedly. Erin, 3, had been bludgeoned to death. Kathryn "Katie" Eastburn had been tied up, apparently raped, and stabbed fifteen times. Those injuries were more than enough to kill the woman and the two girls; in a shocking example of what police call "overkill", the attacker had also slit each of their throats.

The Eastburns' third daughter, Jana, 22 months, was in her crib. Doctors later told Eastburn that when Seefeldt and the cops found her she was within eight hours of death by dehydration.

Some cash and an ATM card were the only things missing from the house. The assailant seemed to have tried to clean the place up. But Sgt. Timothy Hennis's presence wouldn't go unnoticed.

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