Source AP ©

US soldier charged with killings

A U.S. soldier was formally charged with murder in a military court.

A judge scheduled Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis to face a court-martial on June 1 on charges of premeditated murder in the May 1985 deaths of Kathryn Eastburn, 31, and her daughters Kara Sue, 5, and Erin Nicole, 3.

Hennis did not enter a plea Tuesday, said Tom McCollum, a spokesman for the 18th Airborne Corps. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

A civilian jury convicted Hennis of murder in 1986 and sentenced him to death. But the state Supreme Court awarded him a new trial, ruling his first trial was run unfairly and with weak evidence. A second jury acquitted Hennis in 1989.

Hennis retired from the military in 2004 and was living in Lakewood, Washington, when new DNA tests were conducted. The new evidence was given to Army investigators because the state could not charge Hennis again. He was ordered back to active duty last year and returned to Fort Bragg.

Hennis maintains he is innocent, and his lawyer has questioned whether the DNA evidence was reliable because of the sample's age.

Hennis had met the Eastburn family when he adopted their dog several days before the killings. Kathryn Eastburn's husband, Air Force Capt. Gary Eastburn, was in Alabama at squadron officers training school at the time of the deaths.

The Eastburns' third child, 22-month-old Jana, was found unharmed in her crib.

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