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The Eastburn Family Murders and The Three Trials of Staff Sergeant Tim Hennis


I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.

Although fifteen years had passed in 1985, residents of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were still recovering (and debating) the case of Dr. Jeffrey McDonald, who had been convicted of killing his pregnant wife and daughters then spinning a story about a home invasion by doped-up hippies. The thought that a man – a professional man and respected American soldier – could kill his wife and daughters still sent shivers up their spines.

Mother’s Day, May 12, 1985, started out like any other day, especially for members of America’s military who were mostly far from home and their Moms; phone calls and cards would have to substitute for visits and hugs while they went about the duty of defending a nation.

Little by little, however, these dedicated men and women would learn that the wife and two daughters of one their own had fought for their lives, to no avail. Grown men would shed tears at the image of the lone survivor, a 21-month-old baby, standing, arms outstretched, crying for out for her dead mother and sisters. Crying out for someone.


Eastburn family home

Eastburn family home

Military Life. Military Wife.

Katie Eastburn was used to going it alone. She was a military wife, after all. Her husband, Gary Eastburn, was frequently away; this time he was attending an Air Force captain-in-training school in Alabama.

The Eastburns were excited about their upcoming transfer to Germany, even if it was a little nerve wracking thinking about being in a foreign place but there was sure to be plenty of support; the military base to which they had been assigned was large and very accommodating to its American service members and their families.

Katie Eastburn and daughters

Katie Eastburn and daughters

Katie and the girls knew they’d miss their family and friends, but they were also very heartbroken about having to leave their family dog Dixie behind – strict regulations prohibited them from bringing the pet along. With a heavy heart, Katie placed a classified ad in the local paper that serviced the Fayetteville and Fort Bragg area, hoping to find a good family willing to take Dixie and love the animal just as they did.

Around 9 o’clock p.m. on Tuesday, May 7, 1985, Army Staff Sergeant Timothy Hennis answered the classified ad. He and his wife, Angela Hennis, loved dogs but their current pet was extremely jealous of their newborn daughter. Despite their best efforts, Snowball, a mixed breed, just wasn’t going to work out but they hoped they could find another dog, preferably one from a home with kids, which newborn Kristina could grow with and enjoy. Dixie seemed to be exactly what Tim and Angela were hoping for.

Before he left the Eastburn home, he asked Katie to use the restroom and she obliged – no doubt comfortable with her husband’s fellow soldier. Tim soon exited, thanked Mrs. Eastburn for both the use of facilities and Dixie, attached the dog to a lease, and started toward home, eager to introduce Kristina and Dixie.

Day of Discovery

It can never be said with one-hundred percent certainty how it all went down on that Thursday, May 9, 1985, but what is absolutely known is Katie Eastburn and two of her three daughters would die a brutal death.

On Sunday, May 12, the Eastburns’ next door neighbor, Army sergeant Bob Seefeldt arrived home after bailing out one of his soldiers who had a little too much fun on Saturday night and landed himself in the clinker. When he returned home, he was greeted by a worried wife who had noticed the papers piled up on the Eastburns’ doorstep. The family car was still in the driveway and the baby stroller was parked in its usual place by the backdoor.

The more Bob thought about it, he realized he hadn’t seen the Eastburns in at least three days. He decided a little investigating was in order.

As he stepped up to the front door, he was certain he heard the cries of an infant but his knocks and doorbell rings went unanswered. Returning home, he called the Eastburns babysitter Julie Czerniak, who came rushing over. Bob was waiting outside the Eastburn when she arrived. Julie peeked into a window and saw baby Jana, standing alone in her crib, arms outstretched. Reacting on instinct, Julie began looking for a possible way into the home but Bob convinced her to wait for the arrival of police.

Office William Toman was the first to arrive. Forcing open a window, he retrieved the crying infant and a stack of diapers and handed her to Bob. Saying he smelled something he horrible, he told Bob to standby as he went to check out the source. Right away he discovered the dead bodies of Katie and her 3-year-old daughter, Erin Eastburn. Office Toman called for back-up.

A full scale search of the home found the body of 5-year-old Kara Eastman, lying in bed with the with the covers pulled up.

Area residents wanted to know: why would anyone kill a beautiful young mother and her two daughters? But the bigger questions was who?

To Catch A Killer

While investigators was searching the home at 367 Summer Hill Road for viable clues to identify the killer, a young black man named Patrick Cone approached them and said that he had seen a man leaving the residence three nights ago – which would have been the same night of the murders. Eager to solve the triple homicide, investigators listened intently as Patrick told them, “I was walking home from my girlfriend’s house about 3:30 AM. As I was walking, I saw a white Chevette parked on the road. Then I saw this white dude walking down the lady’s driveway. I passed right by him. He said, ‘I’m getting an early start this morning,’ or something like that. Then I watched him get in his white Chevette and drive off.” Patrick then went one to provide a very thorough description of the man, saying he was approximately 6′ 4″ with blonde hair that peeked out from underneath a black toboggan, wearing a black Members Only jacket atop a white shirt and blue jeans.

Three days after the murders, the police publicly broadcast via television and radio a request for the man who had answered the Eastburns classified ad about the dog to please contact police. The plea was accompanied by a composite sketch created from Patrick Cone’s description.

Tiim Hennis

Tiim Hennis

Tim Hennis was watching the evening news when the investigators request was reported and was shaken by the similarities between himself and the composite sketch. Along with his wife and baby girl, Hennis drove to the police department in his white Chevette and offered to assist in any way possible. He willingly answered all of their questions without the aid of an attorney, nor did he ever request one.

It didn’t escape police how closely Tim Hennis resembled the sketch or that he also drove a white Chevette. Although DNA was still a few years away in being used in criminal investigations, police requested hair, blood, and semen samples from Tim; the latter because Katie Eastburn had been raped shortly before her death. Tim willingly obliged, again without the advice of an attorney.

Tim and Angela returned to their home believing they had done all they could do to hopefully bring justice for the Eastman family, so they were shocked when investigators knocked on their door later that evening with an arrest warrant for Tim.

No one involved – not police, Gary or Jana Eastman, or the Hennises – knew that this case would occupy Courtrooms for the next quarter of a century.

Murder Trial: Round 1

Bob Hennis immediately hired the high-profile Fayetteville law firm of Beaver, Holt, Richardson, Sternlicht, Burge and Glazier, PA. Two of their senior partners, Gerry Beaver and Billy Richardson, were considered to be the best criminal defense attorneys in the state of North Carolina.

Right out of the starting gate, the firm hired the services of a private investigator Bob Nelligar. His job was to retrace the steps of police detectives, scrutinize the evidence, and look for information or clues police may have missed.

Julie, the family’s babysitter, was the first to be interviewed. She told Nelligar the family residence had recently been the target of harassing phone calls; some of a sexual nature. She also admitted to her fascination with Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald’s case, her belief in his innocence, and her mail exchanges with the convicted murderer. She also admitted to two other important facts: her stepbrothers strongly resembled Tim Hennis (producing photos when the investigator was skeptical) and that she had been assisting vice squads in setting up busts of local drug dealers; believing on one occasion she had been followed from the Eastburn home by angry dealer, although she could not positively identify the man.

Secondly, Nelligar and the attorneys set up a reenactment of the scene described by Patrick Cone. Along with a Tim Hennis look alike, they went the Summer Hill Road residence at the same early morning hour, with the same foggy and moonless settings, with video camera in hand. The Patrick stand-in was unable to see the Tim actor as the area was very poorly lit during the predawn hours.

During the reenactment, David Hill, a neighbor from across the street, approached the team and told them that, on the night of the murder, he had approached a van parked in front of the Eastburn residence. He had spoken to a white male sporting a crew cut who said he had just stopped to talk with a couple of friends whose voices David could hear in the back of the van. A couple of days later, David saw the same van for sale in the Winn-Dixie parking lot.

At a second reenactment that failed to prove the eye-witness testimony, Patrick, who was present at the request of investigators, admitted that he believed he was mistaken and that he had been having doubts about have fingered Tim Hennis for quite a while.

Nigellar also spotted several flaws in the evidence such as hairs and fingerprints found at the scene that could not be matched to Hennis or any known friend or family member of the Eastburn familly and the size 9 shoe print uncovered by police was extremely too small for Tim’s size 13 feet.

World renowned forensic expert Paul Stombaugh visited the Eastburn residence six months after the crime. There he located a condom package undiscovered by police underneath the dresser. According to Stombaugh, when compared to known facts about the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Eastburn, this suggested consensual sex had occurred in the home prior to murders, as it was his experience rapists very rarely carried condoms to commit their violent acts. Additionally, after spending several hours in the home and pouring over reports and evidence, Stombaugh was of the mind that the murders were committed by two assailants.

Nelligar wrapped up his investigation by speaking with Charlotte Kirby, the newspaper for the carrier for the Eastburn route. Charlotte was angry at being question and refused to provide any information other than it was raining that morning and she had had to bag the papers. Charlotte agreed to testify, but only if she could do so anonymously. He also spoke with Lucille Cook who had used her ATM card at the same time and same place as Katie’s card had been used; she said she saw no one during her transaction. Lastly, Nelligar spoke with Summer Hill Road residence Chuck and Cheri Radtke, who claimed to have went out for an early morning walk at the same time Patrick Cone said he had seen the man in the white Chevette. According to them, they only did not see Patrick but they had seen no one out at the hour. However, they said, a few nights later, they had indeed witnessed a blonde man with a crew cut, wearing a black beret and black Members only jacket, carrying a black garbage bag over his soldier walking down the street at the same time the Eastburn murders would have occurred a few nights before.

Police and prosecutors, however, adamantly stuck to their belief in Tim’s guilt. They badgered Patrick Cone about his retracted identification of Tim Hennis and prosecutor William VanStory IV argued that just because hair and fingerprint samples didn’t match Tim, didn’t mean he couldn’t have committed the crimes.

On July 4, 1986, after twelve hours of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict on one count of first degree rape and three counts of first degree murder. Tim Hennis was sentenced to death three times.

Murder Trial: Round 2

Just days after being booked into Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina, Tim Hennis received a postcard from a mysterious Mr. X that read: “Dear Mr. Hennis, I did the crime, I murdered the Eastburns. Sorry you’re doin the time. I’ll be safely out of North Carolina when you read this. Thanks, Mr. X”. His attorneys waved it off as a hoax, but kept the postcard on file nonetheless. The prosecution received an almost identical postcard but would continue to deny it even when specifically requested in discovery motions.

Tim’s tireless attorneys continued to spend hours preparing and arguing his appeals. After more than two years of being on death row, Tim’s conviction was overturned and sent back to the Courts for a retrial, which began on February 27, 1989.

This time the prosecutor introduce a new witness: Ilesa Peabody, a neighbor who had previously stated she saw no one on the night of murders but was now adamant that she had in fact seen Tim Hennis leave the scene of the crime.

It was of little consequence to the defense who had come to Court this time with both guns blazing and more aggressively took on prosecutor witnesses such as Lucille Cook, the ATM lady who first said no one was at the machine at the time she used it then later was firm in memory of Tim Hennis being the person to use it before her. When she testified at the second trial that she remembered Hennis waiting a “minute or two” before leaving the ATM area, defense attorney used Courtroom theatrics to demonstrate the length of a “minute or two” along with bank record time stamps to prove Lucille was lying.

The state’s star witness, the flaky Patrick Cone, wasn’t exempt from scrutiny when he was forced to admit he had been charged with theft using a stolen ATM card but had questionably been able to avoid being brought to trial.

Sean Buckerner, Patrick’s friend, testified to having lost a wallet which contained a letter written by his friend in which he admitted he didn’t know who or what he really saw on the night of May 9, 1985.

But the defense saved their best for last. With the help of a new private eye, T.V. O’Malley, the attorneys were able to locate the mysterious walker seen by Chuck and Cheri Radtke and later by newspaper carrier Charlotte Kirby. Jaws dropped when John Raupach entered the Courtroom after being called to the stand. John could have been Tim’s identical twin brother! Jurors and spectators were stunned when John testified that he Raupach said that he was 6′ 4″, always wore a black Members Only jacket, black toboggan, white T-shirt, and dark corduroy pants, and that he always carried his book bag over his shoulder.

Following the presentation made by the defense, especially the appearance of John Raupach, it came as no surprise when Tim Hennis was acquitted on all counts.

Murder Trial: Round 3 (Court Martial)

After the acquittal in 1989, Tim Hennis undoubtedly felt free. But it was an ill-fated feeling.

In 2007, Army officials re-opened the case after experts claimed they had linked DNA from the 22-year-old murder to Tim. By this time, 49-year-old Tim had retired from the military but was forcefully reactivated to stand trial under military jurisdiction while double jeopardy prevented state officials from retrying Tim, even with the discovery of new evidence. The federal government is considered a sovereign authority unto itself and therefore separate from powers of the states.

Tim Hennis during his Court Martial

Tim Hennis during his Court Martial

Although Tim initially stuck to his story of only visiting the Eastburn to claim the dog listed in the classifieds, he later claimed that he and Katie had had consensual sex the night of the murder. He did not disclose this important fact before because, according to Tim, he was afraid and did not wish to add to Gary and Jana Eastburn’s grief.

The military jury rejected Tim’s claims and on April 9, 2010, found him guilty on three counts of premeditated murder.

Tim Hennis is currently on death row the an Army facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His attorneys are presently working on his appeals, that are expected to go on for years – possibly even reaching the United States Supreme Court.

Read More About Tim Hennis and the Eastburn Family Murders

Scott Whisnant published an excellent, in-depth book about the trials of Tim Hennis in 1993 titled Innocent Victims. His book inspired a 1996 made-for-television movie by the same title starring Rick Schroder.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Tim Hennis was my first roommate in October 1980. Do you think he murdered his family?

Answer: My personal opinion is Tim Hennis did not murder this family, but I will admit I’ve not attended any trials and have formed this opinion from books, newspapers, and other media outlets.

As a former legal secretary, however, I do not believe the evidence met the burden needed for a conviction. I believe this was a witch hunt from day one. Tim just happened to visit the wrong house on a wrong day.

© 2016 Kim Bryan

Do You Think Tim Hennis Is Guilty of Murdering the Eastburn Family?

Anne Demeter on May 02, 2020:

I think he 'admitted' to sex because the detectives cornered him. How can you be sure the DNA wasn't mixed up the first time and his DNA was kept on file when they tested and said it didn't match. There was a head and pubic hair that didn't match and DNA under Katie's fingernails that wasn't Tim's. The footprints and fingerprints didn't match. There was blood in other areas of the house that didn't match him - why did just the semen match?? There is no sense to this evidence and I don't think he did it -I think somehow the lab screwed up and kept his DNA and submitted it as evidence found at the crime scene.

Melvin Canty on October 09, 2019:

The ATM card was used because the SSGT. was short of total funds for his monthly rent payment.

His financials established shortages which were insufficient to meet May's rent. Yet he made a full rental payment the very next day after the murders.

Lastly, the unexpected admission to having had consensual sex is simply his despicable adaptation to the irrefutable infallibility of DNA evidence.

He willingly offered biological samples to police because he sought to disguise himself as a innocent subject, given his late night mission to secure a dog from and Officer's home at that hour, without having received permission to appear at such a late hour.

The neighbors would have noticed a unknown vehicle appearing at the victim's home during the alleged affair.

Do you really believe that the victim engaged in consensual sex with an unannounced stranger with her children in the home?

Justice chased a captured a murder be the Army (Department of Defense) determined it had jurisdiction via the Uniform Code of Military Justice). The federal criminal code is inconsequential because dude murdered a family while he was a member of the Armed Forces.

Marge Dougherty on September 06, 2019:

Witch hunt...Army didnt want innocence they wanted to.make up for mistake of Jeffrey McDonald case.

Diane on September 01, 2019:

I didn’t until I just read that he admitted having sex with Mrs. Eastburn. Now I think he’s guilty.

Annalise on August 11, 2019:

Somethings missing there is so much untested evidence maybe he did it maybe he didn’t..there so much inconclusive evidence to say anything definitive somethings missing that’s all I could say

Joy Rist on August 03, 2019:

DNA doesn't lie. If he had consensual sex, he would either also be dead, or he had the very bad luck of having a murderer come in shortly after he left. Witness testimony is unreliable so everything they say is suspect. There isn't much left except DNA. The odds of a murderer picking the same night Hennis decides to hook-up with a woman he just met that day are pretty slim. I think he did it. I know my opinion wouldn't stand up in court but it's what I believe.

Suzy on July 14, 2019:

A couple things seem to be missing, what about the baby that was found alive? What happened to her?

Seems they didn’t investigate the other person that looked like Tim, why not?

What about the blood etc that didn’t match Tim?

I think Tim May have went back to the house after getting the dog, I think he may have had sex with the women, but I think someone else murderer them.

Anon on May 21, 2019:

I skimmed this but to everyone who does think he is guilty - arent you interested in knowing if the blood they found matched his. It was never tested and the pubic hair they found wasn’t his either. I wonder who’s it.

Great Samaritan on May 14, 2019:

He's unequivocally the killer and a cold-blooded one for reasons below:

1. killer was not a stranger or intruder as there's no forced entry

2. A stranger wouldn't bother to kill her 2 daughters, Hennis killed those young daughters in fear of being identified by them as he's a fellow soldier and he probably lived around the neighborhood.

3. the powerful DNA proof of his semen (regardless of his subsequent and desperate lies to defend himself; too late)

He had enjoyed 25 years of freedom after the murders, it's about time for him to pay back. There should really be a swift justice instead of having lingered for years before his execution, a waste of taxpayers' money.

ruthy on May 13, 2019:

Killer had to be someone who knew her husband was away in Alabama and someone Kate was familiar with since there was no evidence of forced entry. It could not be a stranger or a drugged group of hippies I believe that had she not placed the ad to adopt the dog, she & the children would still be alive. The DNA of his semen fits the profile of knowing her and that her husband was far away that night. They finally got the right man.

Rich on March 09, 2019:

If the dna matchs then he has to be guilty ..... i watched the death row story and i wanted him to be innocent but if the dna matched and he waited until the dna was produced to say oh by the way i did sleep with her bullshit he did it......

Tammy Guerin on February 06, 2019:

I know a lot about this trial,as well as the DNA results....There was a 1 in 3 billion chances,It Was NOT his semen....This monster murdrerd this sweet family ..I say put him down..

Donnie on January 11, 2019:

I'm back. 2 things. Someone suggested that the detectives should have looked at Patrick Cone. Remember, Mr Cone gave the police sketch artist an exact lookalike of who he saw coming down Eastburn driveway and the white small car he got into. You can't pull that information out of thin air and all of a sudden have a match. 2nd, and this is very important. In the 3rd trial after the DNA evidence revealed his DNA, an inference was presented to the 3rd trial jury that he possibly had sex with the Mrs Eastburn. In my heart I believe that this is a bold face lie. No woman, married, and have 3 young children would screw another man while her children are in the house at the same time. If there are women who would do that I hope I never see their face. There is no reasonable doubt in this case. Mr Hennis is where he needs to be.

Donnie on January 11, 2019:

To all of you bleeding hearts out there who challenge the authenticity of the DNA test. When a woman is rape murder occur, the kit is completed by the Coroner. All biological evidence is enclosed in a standard hospital biological bag that is tightly sealed w/glue and placed in an evidence room until it is sent to a testing lab. The cold case detective knew he couldn't get Mr Hennis tried again so he just decided to send the rape kit to the lab to see if the results would give him a hit. Remember this is in 2007. The crime occurred in 1985. So there is no, none, no way contamination could occur. Apparently the military judge concurs because he denied DNA testing of other areas of the crime scene. I'm done! My last post.

Donnie on January 05, 2019:

There are a lot you are millennials making comments on a murder that happened while you were babies or before you were born. I'm a 69 yo. Let's look at the FACTS. 1st you say why would he be stupid enough to use her ATM after murdering them. Well, back in the 80's ATM technology was practically new and probably didn't even have camera recordings. Criminals who stole and used cards unauthorized by the card holder were too dumb to even think law enforcement had a hands up with this technique on crime fighting. Through investigative police shows manufactured by Hollywood the last 30 yrs this was publicized and made criminals wiser. So yes he could have used the damn card! 2nd, the investigative detective and his own lawyer admitted Mr. Hennis was a psychopath. 3rd, as Pstahlman says it, you don't change your story on the 3rd trial "after" a new IRREFUTABLE scientific fact is introduced that wasn't available before, the DNA evidence. I'm going to be very blunt. If they tested the rape kit evidence in 2007 and found semen in Mrs. Eastburn's vagina that contained the DNA of Mr. Hennis, CHECK-MATE! You have no more moves left. Except you can change your story ("what had happened was") and hope that a military jury would buy it. If I was on that jury guilty would be my vote. These are facts!

Ashley on January 01, 2019:

Just one question: if he's innocent of murdering them why was his semen found inside the mother of the two girls and furthermore why was he going to get the english setter late at night? I mean come on.. She was beautiful young mom alone vulnerable he clearly took advantage of the situation if his dna was inside her and no other traces of dna were found anywhere else it onviously was him and also he probably went to such extreme measures to not only hide the rape from his wife and other people but to silence the only witnesses that would be able to testify and get him the first time also i think towards the end of the attack he probably did a double take an questioned his actions and saw the baby and spared her cuz of guilt. Idk I'm just expressing what i think happened

Cassity on December 27, 2018:

I read the book, watched the movie and read court transcripts. Those of you who are quick to judge should have at the very least perused some of the documents and materials. Saying someone should be put to death when you have NO knowledge of the crime is cringe-worthy. I would only hope an attorney would not be stupid enough to pick any of you for a jury. That is why I would not want to have a jury trial. Let the judge decide. At least he would be smart enough to weigh the facts before making a rash decision to end a life.

lolyeet on October 24, 2018:

I think that even though Tim was having an affair with the woman, he didn't kill her and her family. Both his DNA didn't match and he has no motive, especially for Katie's rape.

Bryan McCollum on July 01, 2018:

I think Tim was having an affair with the woman. I do not feel this killed her or her kids. The hairs and finger prints do not match. Thats the only scenario that makes any sence.

John doe on June 10, 2018:

I think Hennis is guilty of murder...

pstahlman on June 09, 2018:

Yes, if he and his defense are going to claim contamination by the lab regarding the dna, why admit to the consensual sex encounter? If you’re innocent and up to that point denied that you had a sexual encounter with the victim, then why not maintain that same defense, why the desperate admission? He’s guilty!

Rebecaa on June 08, 2018:

After hearing all the evidence ,yes I think he killed the young mother and her two little girls!

Sherry Clark on May 16, 2018:

What did he use to tie Mrs Eastburn to the bed ? I knew he was guilty from the moment I saw the skecth and then him. Also the jacket at the clearners nailed the coffin.

Lars Himler on April 11, 2018:


MMonroe on March 16, 2018:

Hennis had no motive. And surely he wouldn't have been stupid enough to take and use her ATM card, and then cooperate so fully with the police, not knowing if someone saw him or if the bank had cameras. At 6'4" and blond, he was not exactly not noticeable. Can't explain the DNA match (because I think the consensual sex story was an attempt to spare his life) unless there was more hanky panky by the lab and DA, which had already withheld information.

B.B. on March 16, 2018:

Why would they not test all of the evidence? I’d want to make sure the right guy was put away

Carl on December 18, 2017:

I managed an air force facility for ten years. I will explain why military investigators are really inept in their duties. I had

CID come to my facility in 2001. they were looking for 30 something M-16 full auto trigger groups that were shipped to my facility. the only problem was the army turned over this base to the air force in 1985 and these CID officers didn't know that. Most military officers rarely are involved with serious crimes. most spend a few years here and there and move on. your average small town cop has more experience in murders than most military officers.

I just watched a documentary about this guy and I'm really unsure of his guilt because of all the outside evidence was mishandled.

Anne M Bertram on December 14, 2017:

I was so struck by the ineptitude of the author of this article, as to grammar and sentence structure, that I was unable to form an opinion as to guilt or innocence because the facts of the article could be called into question due to errors in subject matter.

Mick Lemburg on December 10, 2017:

Of course he's guilty. I think the military tried him for a reason. They have their own DNA lists of members, right? A list they probably would/will never share with civilian courts. I'm sure there's a way for them to access civilian databases, though. He was a violent rapist who beat the system (at first). IE: HUGE ego. You think he wasn't going to do it again??? When he was cleared, (the first time) he went on to a lengthy career in the military. Moving about freely, and being assigned overseas two or three times. IE: being assigned to "other" bases no doubt to put some distance between him and the "problem". It's been my theory for a while now that he may have been assigned to Hill AFB in Utah between the first rape/murders and when he was finally convicted. IE: 9 serial rapes (unsolved) a mere few miles from Hill AFB where the victims lived, but were attacked (inside their homes, some children) (brutally and at length) IE: Maybe Military (recon) training and huge ego helped him "keep" getting away with it. Dna was obtained from most of those victims and they matched each other. No matches in codis, etc. with that DNA from the victims. Except. . .the military probably doesn't SHARE dna info, but they can probably access codis, etc. Rough timeline fits with the rapes but the military is not going to give up where the guy was stationed all those years. They probably checked his paperwork. Maybe found that the the dna they had on file for Hennis matched the dna samples of the rape victims and "prosecuted" him for the first rape/murder only. Put him on death row to hide connections to the Utah Rapes????? Clearwater, Logan, etc Utah, one in CO not sure the town, and Rock Springs WY,

CW3 Lee A. on November 11, 2017:

I only heard of this case a little more than three years ago when I was assigned to the Corps Material Management center, Fort Lewis Washington where Timothy Hennis was the 1st Sergeant. When I arrived in August of 1999, Timothy Hennis had just become the 1st Sergeant at the 20th CMMC which a year later deactivated and became the 304th CMMC a multi-component unit with Reserve and Active duty soldiers. I was a Chief Warrant Officer three at the time, and of the routine dealings with the 1SG in training and unit interactions, he seemed calm and easy going. That is why when I heard about this years later when my wife who was stationed with me in another unit at Fort Lewis, told me about and article she saw in the Army Times about my ex-1SG Timothy Hennis. I didn't believe it was the same Timothy Hennis until I saw the photos, and while the Timothy Hennis I knew was balding with little hair on the top, the face was recognizable. It just goes to show, nobody ever really knows anyone, dark secrets can be undetected for decades or a lifetime.

As far as my observation, he was a normal acting person, but then again, most sociopaths can avoid detection for years before finally getting caught. I read where someone was commenting on the military going after him when the criminal courts couldn't convict him. Here is why the military intervened. Having been acquitted of 1st degree murder in the criminal court years before DNA was being used as evidence in criminal proceedings, the criminal courts could not try him again just because they had conclusive evidence of his DNA at the crime scene. because of the Double Jeopardy clause. The military recalled him to active duty and tried him in the military courts with a jury of his peers, because a military court is sovereign over the state 's court and does not have to consider double jeopardy. There are only two entities that know beyond a doubt if Timothy Hennis perpetrated this horrific crime. One of them is Timothy Hennis, and the other is God and it doesn't really matter what justice someone receives here the real court is yet to come.

Someone said strangers don't murder people that violently and that it was personal as in the husband, here's a news flash. Sociopaths are cold calculating killers and when they do snap, or act out their devious crimes, they often never met the person they end up killing because that is what serial killers do. if you want to save 15 minutes on car insurance you call GEICO, that's what you do.

John on October 28, 2017:

weather he did it or not, that’s what he gets for having sex with somebody’s wife, and being married. He deserves to spend the rest of his shitty life in jail.

Jurisprudence #13 on August 28, 2017:

I think all of you dad say he is innocent are also Sociopaths

Scal on August 14, 2017:

Guilty as F............k

Im sure this wasn't his only crime. He with no doubt in my mind probably committed other violent crimes while serving over seas.

CyrilS on July 03, 2017:

I have seen two documentaries on this case. The first was some years ago, and was made before the third trial; the second was made after the third trial. That first documentary portrayed Hennis as obviously innocent; the second portrayed him as obviously guilty! How is that possible? Two ways come to mind. One is by either documentary leaving out evidence that doesn’t support a particular view; the other is that new evidence had been found. What new evidence had come to light in the interim? Apparently just that DNA. While DNA is a powerful tool, it has its limitations. It could have been innocently left there; the crime lab might have made a mistake or been negligent; or maybe evidence was planted. So DNA evidence can be challenged, just like any other evidence can be challenged.

Seriously? on June 13, 2017:

I can't believe what I am reading...

CyrilS on June 05, 2017:

Reading the evidence described in the above article for the first trial, how could that jury have convicted him?

robemcdo on June 03, 2017:

Here's the thing. If he was guilty there is no way he walks down to the police station and turns himself in. Witnesses have all been proven to be wrong. The shoes don't fit. The only thing that seems to point is the DNA. Also question must be is why did the military go after this guy when the courts let him go. They wanted this solved, and this is why. Another of their own was responsible. Here's the thing when there is rape/murder. We often assume that the rape was a brutal event followed by another brutal event; the murder. But that is an assumption that is not always true.

I've got 2 theories....and they both point the same place. They were going to Europe, and my guess is that there was a young lady there. The husband was not to intent on bringing his family. He left one alive to remove suspicion from him. He and his wife had sex to make it look like rape as well.

OR...He came home unexpectedly...found out that his wife was cheating on him....and went nuts.

Strangers don't commit crimes like this. This was a crime of passion. It was the husband. And the army knows it. He likely had a few more friends than poor Hennis. That guy had NOTHING to do with it. My guess is that DNA was either planted or bogus, and Hennis realized what they were gunning for him, so he'd better come up with a reason for his DNA. So there you go

JennyRN on June 01, 2017:

So, this is the first time I have ever posted here, well, anywhere for that matter. I do not claim to be any type of expert.

I am a Pediatric Trauma RN, and a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, and I served this country in the US Navy. I have been witnesses in trials for both the prosecution and defense, and I have served as a jury member for several trials, two of which were murder trials.

When I saw this story today, I was stunned.

If it is reasonable to doubt the prosecution's argument, you must pronounce the defendant not guilty. It may suck, but that is the rule, law, or what have you.

I honestly do not know that I could reasonably believe, 100%, that the vaginal swab wasn't "tailor-made" to fit the picture that prosecution is trying to sell. The quality of it from the photo was terrible, and it doesn't appear that the evidence in this case was well protected. My other issue with this evidence is; how in the world is one man's semen and another man's pubic hair found in the same place? That just doesn't work. And with the vast databases that are available, why do they not know who the skin and hairs belong to? Do we even know if Timothy had consensual sex with Mrs. Eastburn? He didn't say that he did, his attorney said it. Mr and Mrs Eastburn and Mr and Mrs Hennis, appeared to be very happily married. People see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear, and commit word vomit without thinking it through. My personal opinion is Prosecutorial misconduct, BECAUSE, the second they saw Mr. Hennis, there was literally no other suspect. They came to a screeching halt, and now they have to make that work...

If I was on that jury, I would absolutely, unequivocally vote not guilty, by reasonable doubt.

To put it simply, one man's semen and another man's pubic hair found in the same spot, does not work, and evidently the semen swab was only a partial sample, so it could reasonably have been manufactured.

If I were Mr Eastburn, I would feel very let down. If they wouldn't have put all of their eggs in the Mr Hennis basket, they may have well, solved this case a very long while ago.

Mologadi on May 31, 2017:

Yes I believe he killed the Eastburn family. The reason is that he had abnormal sexual desires and could not stop himself. After rape he wanted to conceal his traced by killing Mrs Eastburn and girls. Girls became victims because of their encounter when he came for Dixie. Another reaaon might be jealous of Mr EASTBURN training which he failed to attend because of fake check.

Gerda Pretorius on May 31, 2017:


readoubt on May 28, 2017:

According to the book "Innocent Victims," Hennis has never said they had sex. That was his lawyer during closing arguments. I trust the book over this article. This article has a few other details that conflict with the book as well.

The prosecutors in Fayetteville tried to frame him from the start, as was brought before the judge in the second trial. I am suspicious about the authenticity of that swab. (Read the book.) All the evidence needs to be tested for DNA, which has not been done. The military judge would not allow it. All leads need to be better investigated, especially the former Winn-Dixie worker who had scratches on his face. This entire case has been a disaster from the beginning. I honestly don't think Hennis has received a fair trial, never mind the double jeopardy angle.

I'm not sure we'll ever know who really did it.

S. on May 10, 2017:

Vicki, I agree. I don't like this conviction. Wouldn't be the first time that the murder of an Army wife and two daughters was screwed up, would it? Again, as in the MacDonald case, we have a host of evidence pointing to reasonable doubt (if not outright innocence) being ignored when it didn't meet the agenda of prosecutors. I'm starting to feel like Fayetteville police and Army CID just like convictions whether or not they're solid and true.

Stephanie Crews on May 10, 2017:

I wish this article hadn't slanted Jeffrey MacDonald as guilty. Decades have passed since those murders and there's some pretty convincing evidence of his innocence. He's spent decades working against the court of public opinion which was convinced of his guilt by yet another writer, Joe McGuinness, author of "Fatal Vision." MacDonald actually won a civil suit against McGuinness for intentionally twisting facts, evidence, and testimony in that case to sell his book. MacDonald's appeal is pending before the NC Fourth Circuit. Writers really need to be more careful when they write or it could end up costing them.

Trish on April 30, 2017:

There might be reasonable doubt...but when he said he had consensual sex with the victim that is sufficient that he is quilty or he would not have lived a out that.

Bluewater on April 29, 2017:

No, I do not! Based on what I read there is no way he was found guilty without reasonable doubt. Holding back a sexual encounter does not make him. Guilty. Was Justice aserved no. Mr. Hernis is paying for a crime committed by the USArmy, they needed to solve this. This J. McDonald fascination by J. Cernaik and a step brother who was a T. Hennis doppelgänger all to rich for me.

Barry Cartledge on April 08, 2017:

Not guilty. There's too much doubt to send someone to death row after being convicted in 1st trial then acquitted in 2nd trial.

DNA is prosecutor best weapon but when it don't work in there favour they then tell you its unreliable.

The witness who came forward to say it was him that was seen that looked the double of Tim hennis, as he been questioned on his about his movements on the said day and has he had his DNA taken a tested?

If the evidence DOESN'T then you must ACQUIT. This is definateley a 100% MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE.

Hope he gets EXONERATED soon.

From the


john hearn on March 14, 2017:

The Constitution doesn't mean much

To these guys. Their set on hanging

Him. All I can say is getting evolved

With the government on any level is

A big mistake.

kel on March 12, 2017:

I have followed this case from the beginning, and always thought he was guilty. I have read books on this case and was disgusted when he was acquitted. thank god he's been put away.

The Real Killer on February 25, 2017:

Tim did not kill these people. I did. I took advantage of the corruption of NC crime lab

Kelsey L on January 16, 2017:

Did they ever test John Raupach's DNA against the samples?

Jim on January 15, 2017:

Did investigators ever consider Patrick Cone as a suspect? Could he have described Hennis in order to exonerate himself?

Nanette Valencia on January 06, 2017:

On 20/20, I think it was the defense lawyer from the first trial, said he thinks the DNA evidence was contaminated. If that were true it would have rendered no result not Tim's DNA

Lorraine on January 06, 2017:

He's guilty of having sex with her, but the killer is obviously the one who left DNA under hers and her daughter's fingernails. That DNA does not belong to Hennis. What is going on here?

Vicki H on December 02, 2016:

I do see the reasonable doubt thing. Had he not come out and claimed all those years later that they had consensual sex, I could not have found him guilty. I think they should have looked at the babysitter a little bit more. Unfortunately I guess after my other comment, I don't know. I don't know the details of the victim's life. If she did things like that, I don't know. But based on his own admission of having had sex when they said she was raped, and there's a way to show consensual vs rape, I still would have to go with guilty. Though there are too many unanswered questions. Some things we never know the whole truth. This obviously is one of those cases.

Vicki H on December 02, 2016:

I thought he was innocent until he claimed they had consensual sex. That did it for me. As soon as he knew DNA could identify him, he changed his story. Dirty SOB anyway. I do see why the second trial jury found him not guilty. Too many discrepancies in the testimonies of so called witnesses but the DNA and lying about it for all those years. If they had consensual sex, I don't think you would forget or lie about it when you know they are looking at you as the suspect. Well hopefully he gets his comeuppance soon!

shaunthebrummie on November 22, 2016:

is he dead yet..if not..why not

shelly on July 28, 2016:

I believe you must be the wife.

Hennis had sex and confessed. the semen in her was real.

are you that stupid?

Let that killer die already

Vicki on July 12, 2016:

The last part was incomplete. As far as I know, Tim's lawyer threw out the possibility of consensual sex in the closing argument. I have not heard that Tim actually said that. The lawyer said the jurors might consider that. What?? I'm still not clear if Tim said it or his lawyer said it without his permission (and you don't make a fuss by protesting in a court martial). Also, they magically found a brand new swab for the DNA? 35 years old and not refrigerated in a box on a shelf marked "SUSPECT HENNIS". (You can see it on the 20/20 episode). Prejudicial isn't it to mark victim's evidence with the pet suspect's name? When are they going to separate suspect samples from crime scene evidence material so that workers in the lab can't be chummy with the police and 'help' them get who they want? Remember that note in the Making a Murderer case (who may have done it, not sure) where the cop asks the lab worker to 'put Halsbach in the suspect's garage)? The buildings and people handling suspect dna and crime scene/victim evidence should be completely separate buildings and people and suspect names should not be known or easy to access by lab workers--it should be numbers they cannot identify so that lab workers can't help police by placing a certain suspect's dna onto crime scene evidence. This would help everyone, the suspects and the prosecutors so they won't be accused of planting forensic evidence which is a growing problem. Happened in Nebraska recently in that family murder.

The DNA evidence in this case is troublesome. What the state lab came up with is vastly different than the army results. Trillion odds vs. hundreds. Hundred level odds can't even narrow down race. I question how the DNA sample they suddenly found was still good under the conditions it was stored under. The 1985 second trial had said all the sample had been used up. The lab in NC has been audited and got in huge trouble. Was investigated for workers skewing results, falsifying reports etc to gain conviction of the state's favorite suspect. They were proven to have helped convict 2 people falsely of murder. The worker who worked Tim's case was fired for unethical activity. And it's this same lab who got those trillion results after they magically found a new sample.

Like it or not, there is evidence that does not match Hennis. Definitive evidence there of a cleanup of size 9 shoeprints in blood, plus blood and hair evidence that didn't match. There is dna under the fingernails of Katie and one of the daughters that does not match Tim but matches each other. That is powerful evidence. So either Tim had somebody else with him or the perp was someone else entirely, possibly the people spotted in the van by several witnesses. And Patrick Cone used a stolen card at the same ATM that Katie's card was used at. His sister lived around the corner from the Eastburn house. The weird phone calls to Katie and to the newspaper carrier said "I live around the corner and I'm coming to see you". The babysitter's brothers DNA wasn't tested. What about the drug ties to Julie as well? She planned a drug deal (which was a set up) at the Eastburn house the Friday of the murders, for God's sake? Don't think the van people couldn't have been these drug people who figured out she was a narc but didn't realize she was just the babysitter? Or maybe the DEA don't want it out that a murder of 3 people occurred when they let one of their deals be set up in an innocent person's house? (Deal didn't go through as Julie's Mom stopped her from doing it, but it was going to take place the very weekend of the murders). Also, we have a similar murder taking place while Tim was in jail of a woman leaving a crying child alive. She had put an ad in the same paper to sell a water bed. It is known that the ad is tied to the murder due to certain circumstances.

There is reasonable doubt all over this case.

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