FORT BRAGG — A witness in the murder trial of a North Carolina-based soldier testified Wednesday that she saw the defendant use an ATM card that authorities say was stolen from a woman who was slain along with two of her daughters.
Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis, 51, is being tried a third time on charges of premeditated murder in the 1985 stabbing deaths of Kathryn Eastburn and two of her daughters, 5-year-old Kara Sue and 3-year-old Erin Nicole. The death penalty trial is in its second week. Prosecutors spent much of last week presenting evidence from the crime scene.
Hennis was convicted of the killings in civilian court in 1986 and sentenced to death, but the state Supreme Court gave him a new trial. He was acquitted in the second trial. He retired from the military in 2004 and was living in Lakewood, Wash., when a detective reviewing the case said he uncovered DNA evidence that couldn't be tested in the mid-1980s.
The new evidence was given to Army investigators, who recalled Hennis to active duty in 2006 and brought him back to Fort Bragg. The government has not presented the new DNA evidence they say links Hennis to the murders.
Lucille Cook, who testified in Hennis' two previous trials, said she saw a man dressed in Army camouflage pants at an ATM in May 1985 in Fayetteville. An ATM card was stolen from the Eastburn's home and used to withdraw $150 from the same machine. Cook was the next person to use the machine, and she later identified Hennis from his mug shot.
Defense lawyers pointed out that Cook told investigators in 1985 that she did not remember seeing anyone at the ATM and acknowledged seeing several pictures of Hennis in the media before coming forward. Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, one of Hennis' defense lawyers, also used Cook's testimony from Hennis' second trial in 1989 to point out inconsistencies in her story.
Cook said she didn't come forward originally because shewas scared and later her husband told her not to.
In other testimony Monday, Nancy Maeser, a former girlfriend of Hennis, said he stopped by her apartment on the night of the killings. They talked about his marriage and financial troubles. She said Hennis was in a good mood when he left an hour later.