FORT BRAGG — Relatives, friends and fellow soldiers testified Monday at the sentencing of a soldier convicted of murder in the slayings of a North Carolina mother and two of her daughters, describing him as a caring father and professional Army sergeant.
"I still love him. I believe in him," a sobbing Beth Brumfield said as she described how she feels about her brother, Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis.
Hennis was found guilty at a military trial last week of three counts of premeditated murder in the slayings of 31-year-old Kathryn Eastburn and two of her three daughters in their Fayetteville home in 1985.
Brumfield cried as she recalled the events of the past few years, when Hennis was recalled to active duty to be tried again and both of their parents died. "It's taken a toll on the family," said Brumfield, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla.
Also testifying was Anita Pellot of Carolina Beach, the sister of Hennis' wife, Angela.
"He was like a father to me," Pellot said, sobbing through her testimony.
Hennis sat stoically throughout the testimony. He spoke only at the end of the hearing, when the judge, Col. Patrick Parrish, asked him if he understood his right to testify or make an unsworn statement. Hennis replied "yes, sir" five times to Parrish's questions.
His wife sat behind him, often crying and dabbing at her tears with tissues.
The Eastburn family, including the surviving daughter, Jana, and Kathryn Eastburn's widower, Gary, sat behind prosecutors and occasionally reached for tissues themselves as Hennis family members testified.
Army colleagues also testified, including retired Col. Joseph Williams of Portland, who said he and Hennis worked together at Fort Lewis, Wash., and then became friends. His strongest testimony came under cross-examination by a prosecutor, who asked Williams what he thinks of Hennis now that he's been convicted of three murders.
"The Sgt. Hennis I know is a good person," Williams said. "He was a good [noncommissioned officer]. He's been a good friend. He's been with me and my kids and my family. ... I respect the conclusion the panel came to. ... But I still hold Tim Hennis in high regard."
Other military colleagues described Hennis as punctual, professional, and dedicated to his mission and fellow soldiers. The defense called 19 witnesses, including Kristina Mowry, 25, the oldest of Hennis' two children, and several cousins, all of whom described a tight-knit family with Hennis as leader and guardian of the younger children.