On May 30, 1997, a New Jersey jury found Jesse Timmendequas, 36, guilty of the rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka, who lived across the street from him. The case attracted national attention and led to the creation of “Megan’s Law,” which requires law enforcement to disclose details relating to the location of registered sex offenders.On July 29, 1994, Timmendequas lured Kanka into his house in Hamilton Township on the pretense of seeing a puppy. He then raped her, beat her, and strangled her with a belt. A day later, he led police to the location where he had placed her body in a park.
Public outrage grew when it was discovered that Timmendequas, a sex offender, had two previous convictions for sexually assaulting young girls. Back in 1979, Timmendequas pleaded guilty to the attempted aggravated sexual assault of a five-year-old girl. Then in 1981, he pleaded guilty to the assault of a seven-year-old girl — and was sent to the Adult Diagnostic & Treatment Center (ADTC) in Avenel, New Jersey, for six years. At least one of his therapists reportedly stated that she had believed that Timmendequas would eventually commit another sex crime.
At Timmendequas’ trial for the murder of Megan Kanka, evidence presented included bloodstains, hair, and a bite mark matching Kanka’s teeth on Timmendequas’ hand. The jury found him guilty of charges including kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, and felony murder.
Timmendequas remained on New Jersey’s death row until December 17, 2007, when the legislature abolished the state’s death penalty. As a result, his sentence was commuted to life without the possibility of parole.
One month after Kanka’s murder, the New Jersey General Assembly passed a series of bills proposed by Assemblyman Paul Kramer that require measures including sex-offender registry and community notification of registered sex offenders moving into a neighborhood. Versions of “Megan’s Law” were passed in New Jersey and nearly every other state, and a federal law was signed by President Clinton in 1996 requiring that states pass statutes ordering notification when a convicted sex offender moves into a neighborhood. These statutes are under constitutional challenge in state and federal courts.
At his trial, Jesse’s brother Paul Timmendequas said that Jesse had been repeatedly raped by their father. But later, an investigator for the prosecution testified that Paul had told him that the accounts of rapes were untrue.
In 1998, just a year after his brother’s sentencing for the murder of Megan Kanka, Paul Timmendequas was charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated sexual conduct, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a minor. According to authorities, the girls were 12 and 15 years old.
Main photo: Megan Kanka [Wikimedia Commons]