“Timothy Hennis was sentenced to death for the murders of Katie Eastburn and her two daughters, Erin and Kara Eastburn. Katie was a military wife who lived on the Fort Bragg base with her husband and three daughters. This case takes a look at how important it is to follow investigatory protocol and how double jeopardy is actually interpreted in the legal system in a case that spans over two decades. Tune in to find out how this case unfolds, and where it stands today.” –The Case of Timothy Hennis, Death’s Door Podcast (September 14, 2017)
Fort Bragg, North Carolina, had seen it all before – when Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of savagely slaying his wife and children. Now another officer’s wife had been raped and murdered, another pari of children viciously butchered. And another member of the military was brought to trial. This time the state had no trouble winning a conviction. Tim Hennis was found guilty and sentenced to death. Only Hennis’ parents, wife, and dedicated defense team refused to give up. Piece by piece they ripped the state’s case to shreds, revealing a stunning story of perversion of justice, false witnesses, hidden evidence, and, incredibly, a baby-sitter who had a fascination with Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald. With the brutal truth and chilling suspense of Fatal Vision, this riveting account recreates a vicious crime, the behind-the-scenes story of its investigation, the compelling drama of one of the very few men ever released from Death Row, and an unsolved mystery that still casts a spell of terror. (Innocent Victims by Scott Whisnant)
I read the Innocent Victims book while I was camping and honestly I could not put it down. I was reminded of it while listening to the Military Murder Podcast and inspired to read it because of the level of detail available in the book. It was a great read because there were so many twists and turns in the case. If I didn’t know about the fact that a DNA match to Timothy Hennis helped prove his guilt in a 2010 military trial, I would have been convinced Timothy Hennis was wrongfully convicted. Timothy Hennis was luckier than most because he had the staunch support of his adopted family and wife Angela, who all believed wholeheartedly in his innocence. This case is one for the history books because it’s not every day someone is found guilty in a civilian trial, then found not guilty in a civilian trial on appeal, and then tried again by the military in a third trial and found guilty. Timothy Hennis was sentenced to death and is one of four service members languishing on military death row. The military hasn’t executed anyone since they hanged Army Pvt. John Bennett on April 13, 1961.
Journalists and scholars have questioned the military’s ability to try someone found not guilty in a civilian court because of the double jeopardy concerns. Due to the fact that Timothy Hennis was found not guilty in a second civilian trial, he was allowed to resume his career in the U.S. Army and retired as a MSG in 2004. As far as we know, Timothy Hennis committed no other crimes and was well respected by those he served with. It would be because of his retirement from the military, the Army was able to bring him back on active duty status and try him in a third trial for the murders of the Eastburn family. This practice is also controversial. On appeal Timothy Hennis challenged the military’s jurisdiction to recall him to active duty status to prosecute him and questioned the double jeopardy concerns. In January 2020, an Appeals Court decided military retirees can be recalled to active duty status and court-martialed. In February 2020, the U.S. Court of Military Appeals rejected Hennis’ constitutional rights challenges to the military court’s jurisdiction to try him.