The Eastburn Family Murders

Three murder trials and advances in DNA finally brought the killer to justice over 20 years later.

Josie Klakström


When the police officer arrived at the Eastburn’s home on Summer Hill Road, he could hear the youngest daughter, Jana, screaming inside the house. She was just hours away from death by dehydration and starvation, and she was covered in dirt and faeces.

The toddler would be the only one in the house found alive.

Katie, Kara, Erin and Jana Eastburn via

The Eastburns were a military family and were about to move to England for husband Gary’s new role in the Royal Air Force. He held the rank of captain and was at a training facility in Montgomery, Alabama, 500 miles away from his family in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The family spoke on the phone every Saturday, but when Gary called his wife Katie, for the couple’s morning call, she didn’t pick up. But back in May 1985, there was little else Gary could do but wait by the phone for his wife to call him back.

The Eastburn’s neighbour, Bob, had noticed the newspapers piling up and assumed that Katie and her daughters, Kara who was five, Erin who was three and little Jana who was just under two, had gone away, but their car was still in the driveway.

He rang the doorbell and there was no answer, but he could hear the baby crying inside. He told his wife to contact the Sheriff’s office and he waited for them to arrive.

Jana was passed through the window to Bob, while the police officer continued into the house. He found the bodies of Katie, Erin and Kara after smelling a strong odour, and called in the deaths.

Five-year-old Kara had been stabbed in the chest multiple times and was found curled up under a Star Wars blanket. 32-year-old Katie was found without her trousers or underwear on and had been raped. She’d also been stabbed fifteen times. Three-year-old Erin had received blunt force trauma to her chest and back, and all of their throats had been cut.

Later, when survivor Jana was asked what happened that night, she told the child psychologist to hide because the “bad men” were coming. They believed her sisters had told her to stay hidden, which is why she survived the attack, unharmed.



Josie Klakström

Josie is a freelance journo who writes about writing, true crime, culture and marketing.