The Eastburn family was composed of Katie Eastburn and Captain Gary Eastburn, as well as their three young daughters, Kara, Erin, and Jana. In 1985, Katie, Kara, and Erin were all found dead, with young Jana found trapped in her crib. This brutal murder was a shock to their neighborhood, and to this day has family members left asking why someone would do such a terrible thing. In this article, we will discuss the circumstances surrounding their tragic deaths.
Something Isn’t Right
Captain Gary Eastburn knew that something was wrong when he failed to hear from his wife for a couple of days. At the time, Captain Eastburn was at a training session on base in another state for the Air Force. No matter when he called the house, no one was answering. Around the same time that he began to worry, neighbors reportedly called police to report a baby that had been crying for multiple days in a row. The police investigation began.
The Brutal Crime Scene
When police arrived, they wasted no time before entering the house. From the moment they entered the home, it was obvious that something was wrong. Already, a smell was in the air, and a baby could be heard crying. Police immediately discovered Jana, who was less than two years old, hysterical in her crib, where she had clearly been left unattended.
More concerning than the poor abandoned infant was the scene in the rest of the home. In no time at all, police located the bodies of Katie and her two other daughters, Kara at the age of five and Erin at the age of three. Katie’s throat had been cut open and Kara and Erin had both been stabbed to death. In addition to being brutally murdered, Katie had also been violently raped.
Talking With Jana
Police called in a special child psychologist in hopes of learning something about the murderer from the only witness to the crimes. It is unclear why Jana was spared, though it seems likely because the killer knew she didn’t see anything. The psychologist was able to get Jana to talk in broken toddler language, but really only learned that there had been someone in the house and that she was afraid that they would “get” her. Now a grown woman, Jana has spoken out repeatedly on the tragedy that robbed her of the opportunity to ever truly know her mother and sisters.
The Suspect In The White Car
As soon as police began asking around, a neighbor was able to tell police that they had seen a man in the area in the middle of the night. He was able to describe the make and model of the car, leading police to their suspect. The man, Tim Hennis, was arrested almost immediately. Hennis had reportedly adopted the family’s dog the day before and was found to match the description and have the car identified by the neighbor.
Tim Hennis, a member of the United States Army, was taken to court and charged without any question. He was immediately found guilty and put in jail where he served time until he was released after a new trial. The argument was that his trial wasn’t fair due to the graphic crime scene images shown. Hennis was acquitted and returned to his work in the Army, much to the horror of Jana, now an adult, and her family.
Technology has allowed for many advances in the world of crime and DNA testing is now incredibly common. At the original crime scene, Katie Eastburn had been swabbed to collect a semen sample from her assault. This was used to prove without a doubt that Hennis was the rapist and had killed the family. Unfortunately, the new evidence proved to be a problem since civilians cannot be retried for the same crime.
Help From The Military
Though it is true that civilians cannot be charged for the same crime twice, the military has its exceptions. Hennis had retired from the military at this point, but upon confirmation of the DNA evidence, he was immediately ordered back to active-duty and court-martialed. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. Now, he remains on death row while he awaits further decisions. For now, it seems unlikely that Hennis will never actually be killed because such action against a military member must be approved by the president, which has rarely occurred. Regardless, Hennis is in prison exactly where he belongs for his horrible crimes.