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Court rejects former soldier's murder conviction appeal

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A military appeals court has rejected the latest appeal from a former Fort Bragg soldier convicted in 2010 of a 1985 triple murder.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces denied the petition of Timothy B. Hennis.

Hennis, a 55-year-old former master sergeant, was brought out of retirement to face an Army court-martial nearly two decades after a 1986 conviction was overthrown and he was found not guilty in 1989.

Hennis, who is being held at the U.S. Army Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., filed a petition with the court in late January asking for extraordinary relief.

His lawyers argued the military lacked jurisdiction to court-martial Hennis because of an alleged break in his military service that occurred while he was awaiting an appeal in North Carolina courts, according to a copy of the petition.

The court's daily journal notes that Hennis' petition was denied without prejudice last week, meaning he could still raise the issues in his petition during the course of his case's normal appellate review.

After years of hearings following his recall from retirement, Hennis was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 for the killings of Kathryn Eastburn, a military spouse, and two of her children - daughters Kara, 5, and Erin, 3 - at their Fayetteville home.

Eastburn and her children were found stabbed to death in their home in the Summerhill neighborhood in May 1985. A third child, 22-month-old Jana, was found alive in the home.

At the time of the killings, Gary Eastburn, Kathryn's husband and father to the three girls, was in the Air Force and training in Alabama.

The denial is the latest loss in court for Hennis, who repeatedly argued that the military lacked jurisdiction during and after his court-martial.

The petition was the ninth time Hennis made the argument. It asked the court to set aside his conviction and sentence and order his immediate release.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Hennis' arguments. Other civilian federal courts have ruled that it would be inappropriate to consider jurisdiction during Hennis' military appeals.

The murders have repeatedly drawn national attention and have been the focus of several television specials, a book and a television miniseries.

Hennis was originally convicted of the murders in Cumberland County Superior Court in 1986, but he was acquitted in Wilmington in 1989 after winning a new trial on appeal.

He was then released and continued his military career. The Army brought him out of retirement and charged him in the killings after DNA from the crime scene was linked to him in 2006.

In addition to his death sentence, Hennis was demoted to E-1 and forced to forfeit all pay and allowances and receive a dishonorable discharge.
 

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