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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 29, 1994
Date of birth: April 15, 1961
Victim profile: Megan Kanka, 7 (his neighbor)
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Hamilton Township, New Jersey, USA
Status: Sntenced to death on May 30, 1997. Commuted to life in prison on December 17, 2007

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Jesse Timmendequas (born April 15, 1961) is a convicted murderer who on 29 July 1994 raped and murdered his neighbor, seven-year-old Megan Kanka in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, USA.

The murder led the Legislature of the U.S. state of New Jersey to pass "Megan's Law", which requires notification when a previously convicted sex offender moves into a neighborhood.

In 1979, Timmendequas had pleaded guilty to the attempted aggravated sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl in Piscataway, New Jersey. He was given a suspended sentence, but, failing to go to counseling, he spent nine months at the Middlesex Adult Correctional Center. In 1981, he pleaded guilty in regards to the sexual assault of a seven-year-old girl and was imprisoned, at Avenel, for six years.


Evidence including blood stains, hair, and fiber samples, found outside Timmendequas' home, as well as a bite mark matching Kanka's teeth, on Timmendequas' hand, led to Timmendequas being found guilty of kidnapping, four counts of aggravated sexual assault, and two counts of felony murder. Prosecutors argued that Timmendequas lured the girl into his house, across the street from hers, offering to show her a puppy.

After raping her, he slammed her head onto a dresser, put a plastic bag over her head, and strangled her with a belt. He raped her post-mortem after putting her in his car after he drove off. He then stuck her body into a toy box and left it in a nearby county park. A day later, he had led police to the body in the park.

Congressman Dick Zimmer stated, "I believe he is exactly the kind of predator that the legislature had in mind when it enacted the death penalty."

The court sentenced Timmendequas to death. He remains on death row, waiting for the sentence to be carried out.


Timmendequas' defense maintained he was coerced, by police, into confessing. The defense further argued that Timmendequas' roommates, also convicted sex offenders, were involved in the slaying. The three men had met at Avenel.


Jesse K. Timmendequas (born April 15, 1961) is a convicted murderer who on July 29, 1994 raped and murdered his neighbor, seven-year-old Megan Kanka, in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. The murder led the New Jersey Legislature to pass Megan's Law, which requires convicted sex offenders to notify the local police department when they move into a neighborhood.

Earlier criminal history and treatment

In 1979, Timmendequas pleaded guilty to the attempted aggravated sexual assault of a five-year-old girl in Piscataway Township, New Jersey. He was given a suspended sentence but, after failing to go to counseling, he was sent for nine months to the Middlesex Adult Correctional Center. In 1981, he pleaded guilty in regards to the assault of a seven-year-old girl, and was imprisoned at the Adult Diagnostic & Treatment Center (ADTC) in Avenel, New Jersey for six years.

Timmendequas reportedly participated little in the treatment program offered at the ADTC. He was described by one therapist who treated him at the facility as a "whiner" who spent most of his time sleeping. Another therapist stated that she had believed that Timmendequas would eventually commit another sex crime (although she did not believe he would commit murder).

Murder of Megan Kanka

Timmendequas lived with two other convicted sex offenders across the street from his victim. He lured the girl into his house by offering to show her a puppy. After raping her, he slammed her head onto a dresser, put two plastic bags over her head, and strangled her to death with a belt. He moved her body to his truck, assaulting her once again before placing the body in a wooden toy chest and dumping it in nearby Mercer County Park. The next day, he confessed to investigators and led police to the site. Evidence including bloodstains, hair, and fiber samples, as well as a bite mark matching Megan Kanka's teeth on Timmendequas' hand, led to Timmendequas being found guilty of kidnapping, four counts of aggravated sexual assault, and two counts of felony murder — committing murder in the course of a felony.

One month after the murder, the New Jersey General Assembly passed a series of bills proposed by Paul Kramer that would require sex offender registration, with a database tracked by the state, community notification of registered sex offenders moving into a neighborhood and life in prison without a chance of parole for those convicted of a second sexual assault. Kramer expressed incredulity at the controversy created by the bills, saying that "Megan Kanka would be alive today" if the bills he proposed had been law.

Congressman Dick Zimmer stated, "I believe he is exactly the kind of predator that the legislature had in mind when it enacted the death penalty." The court sentenced Timmendequas to death, and the sentence was upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court on appeal. Timmendequas remained on New Jersey's Death Row until December 17, 2007, when the New Jersey Legislature abolished the state's death penalty. This ban resulted in Timmendequas's sentence being commuted to life in prison without parole.

As of 2010 Timmendequas is incarcerated at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.


The facts

On July 29, 1994, seven-year-old Megan Kanka lived with her parents in Hamilton Township, diagonally across the street from defendant. At about 5:30 p.m., defendant lured Megan into his house, ostensibly to play with his puppy. He drew her into his bedroom where he attempted to sexually assault her. She screamed and tried to escape but defendant, fearing detection, would not let her leave. Megan fought for her life as defendant strangled her with a belt until she lost consciousness. During the struggle, Megan hit her face on a dresser and her head on a door, causing bleeding. To avoid blood stains on the carpet, defendant placed a plastic bag over her head. Defendant then sexually assaulted Megan.

Believing Megan to be dead, defendant placed her body in a toy box and carried it downstairs. When he put the box in his truck, he thought he heard Megan cough. He drove to Mercer County Park, took Megan's body out of the box, and placed her in tall weeds. Before he left, he sexually assaulted her again.

Megan's family called police when she did not return home. Officers arrived and joined neighbors in the search for Megan. Defendant participated in the search, handing out fliers with Megan's picture. Defendant told the police that he had seen Megan riding a bicycle at 2:30 in the afternoon. That statement conflicted with his prior statement to Maureen Kanka that he last saw Megan before dinner. Police asked defendant if he had seen Megan at any other time. He said he saw Megan riding her bicycle in front of his home between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m.

The police obtained the consent of the homeowner, defendant's roommate, to search defendant's living quarters. Police questioned defendant again in the house. Shaking and perspiring, defendant said that he saw Megan and a friend between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m. while he was washing his boat. The police then interviewed defendant at the police station where he gave conflicting statements concerning his whereabouts during the time of Megan's disappearance. Soon thereafter, he was released.

The following day, at police headquarters, defendant told the police that Megan was dead and that he had left her body in Mercer County Park. He did so at the prompting of his roommate, after repeatedly denying involvement. Defendant led the police to the body and, on the drive back to the police station, he recounted what had happened. At the station, in a formal statement, he confessed to the murder and some but not all aspects of the sexual assault. After the police presented him with the results of the autopsy, he provided further details of the sexual assault, the head injuries, and other conduct described above.

Defendant did not testify or present witnesses on his behalf at the guilt phase of the trial, which was held from May 5 to May 30, 1997. The jury found him guilty of purposeful-or-knowing murder, two counts of felony murder, first-degree kidnapping, and four counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault.

The penalty phase of the trial commenced on June 9 and continued to June 20, 1997. The jury concluded that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt. The court sentenced defendant to death.

In our proportionality review, we consider testimony adduced at the penalty phase together with the evidence elicited at the guilt phase. Defendant offered two witnesses who presented evidence of mitigating circumstances in his background.

Carol Krych, a forensic social worker, testified that defendant's mother was a promiscuous alcoholic who had ten children by seven different men. Defendant's father was a violent drinker with a criminal history. Krych testified, based on information provided by defendant's mother, that defendant was raised in poverty, the family lived for a time in a shack, and defendant was often cold, dirty, hungry and without adequate medical care. Other sources told Krych that defendant's father had sexually abused defendant and his brother Paul frequently, that the two brothers once saw their father rape a seven-year-old girl, that the father tortured and killed their pets, and that he once forced the brothers to eat their pet rabbit. Krych therefore concluded that defendant had a severely dysfunctional family life.

Krych added that defendant had been diagnosed with emotional problems as a youth and was classified as “educable mentally retarded,” but conceded that a conflict existed with respect to that classification. She also acknowledged that she had not testified on direct regarding academic reports that indicated defendant had made good progress in school. Krych further admitted that although Paul originally said defendant should not be sentenced to death, she had since heard that he had changed his mind.

Defendant's second expert, Dr. John Podboy, a psychologist, relied upon the Krych report but never evaluated defendant personally. Podboy found that defendant suffers from pedophilia, borderline mental retardation, fetal alcohol effect, and a schizoid personality disorder. He testified that defendant likely had “generalized anxiety, . . . perhaps . . . includ[ing] post-traumatic stress disorder.” Podboy expressed the opinion that, at the time of the crime, defendant was under “extreme emotional disturbance” and that his “capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct was very much impaired,” as was his ability “to conform his conduct . . . to the requirements of the law.” He also concluded that defendant may have had a serious brain abnormality, which could reflect a post-traumatic insult, a vascular insult, or a congenital abnormality. Megan's death, said the psychologist, was caused by a reflexive response to the panic defendant felt when the victim attempted to flee.

The State presented rebuttal witnesses. Two detectives testified that people to whom they spoke about defendant's childhood said that defendant's mother was not constantly intoxicated, that defendant's house was not substandard, and that his clothing was not disheveled. One detective testified that Paul Timmendequas told him that their father physically abused Paul and defendant, and that their mother broke defendant's arm when defendant was seventeen years old. According to the detective, Paul gave several inconsistent statements regarding sexual abuse, at one point even denying that he knew whether defendant had been abused at all. Paul also claimed that he was drunk when he spoke with Krych.

Dr. Robert L. Sadoff, a psychiatrist, said that there was no evidence to support defendant's claims of extreme emotional disturbance and diminished capacity. Sadoff said that defendant's description of his own conduct demonstrated that defendant was in control of the situation and had simply acted logically to avoid apprehension. Sadoff also said that defendant's I.Q., seventy-four, showed that he had borderline intelligence that did not prevent him from functioning or appreciating the nature of his conduct.

In his allocution statement, defendant said:

Okay. I am sorry for what I've done to Megan. I pray for her and her family every day. I have to live with this and what I've done for the rest of my life. I ask you to let me live so I, some day, I can understand and have an understanding why something like this could happen. Thanks.



New Jersey v. Timmendequas (5/97)

Jesse Timmendequas was tried for the July 1994 kidnapping, murder and rape of 7-year-old Megan Kanka. The case has given birth to the federal and state laws commonly known as "Megan's Law," in which sex offenders are required to register with local police when they've moved into a neighborhood and local authorities are often required to provide community notification of the sex offender's presence.

On the evening of July 29, 1994, Megan Kanka disappeared from her neighborhood in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. When her mother realized Megan was not in the house, she went to the homes of several neighbors where Megan often played. During her search, Maureen Kanka met Timmendequas, then 33, who lived diagonally across the street from the Kankas. Timmendequas told her that he had seen Megan earlier that evening while he was working on his car.

The Kankas called police hours later when Megan had not been found. Police conducted a door-to-door search of the neighborhood. They began to focus their attention on Timmendequas's house because they learned that another resident, Joseph Cifelli, was a convicted sex offender. Another resident of the house, Brian Jenin, was also a paroled sex offender. The three men had met at New Jersey's Avenel Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center for sexual offenders.

During the door-to-door search, police said that Timmendequas appeared extremely nervous. He agreed to accompany the police to headquarters for questioning, saying that he would help police in any way he could.

After 24 hours of continued searches had failed to locate Megan, Timmendequas allegedly confessed and led police to Megan's body. Megan was found dumped in some weeds at a nearby county park.

Prosecutors alleged that Timmendequas lured Megan into his home by telling her she could see his puppy dog. The state contended that Timmendequas raped Megan and strangled her after placing two plastic bags over her head. Timmendequas gratuitously killed Megan, according to the state, to prevent her from being a witness to the assault.

The prosecution said that Timmendequas carried Megan's body out of the house in a toy box and dumped it in the county park. He then allegedly tried to cover up the crime by using ammonia to wash down his steps, the toy box and his truck.

The Defendant

Timmendequas has two prior sex convictions. In 1979, Timmendequas pled guilty to attempted aggravated sexual assault in connection with the attack of a 5-year-old girl in Piscataway, New Jersey. He was given a suspended sentence on the condition that he go obtain counseling. Court records showed that Timmendequas did not live up to those terms, and he served nine months in Middlesex Adult Correctional Center.

In 1981, Timmendequas was arrested in another incident involving the assault of a 7-year-old girl. He eventually pled guilty to attempted sexual contact and to attempting to cause serious bodily injury in connection with the assault. Timmendequas spent six years at Avenel. When released, he moved into the Hamilton Township house, owned by roommate Joseph Cifelli's mother, where he allegedly murdered Megan.

Megan's Law

After the murder of their daughter, the Kankas began spearheading a campaign to enact legislation, modeled after similar laws in Oregon, providing for police registration and community notification when sex offenders are released into a particular neighborhood.

The New Jersey law identifies convicted sex offenders according to "risk." If the offender is "low risk," only police must be notified of where that person lives. If the offender is deemed a "medium risk," then schools and day care centers must be notified of that person's presence in the community. If the offender is deemed "high risk," anyone the offender is likely to encounter must be notified.

In New Jersey, "risk" is determined by considering the number of offenses, whether a weapon was used, age of the victim, whether the offender had therapy and if so, whether therapy had succeeded.

The New Jersey state Supreme Court upheld Megan's Law in 1995. Challenges to the law at the federal level have been mixed. In April 1996, the U.S. Third Circuit of Appeals upheld the registration aspect of the law, but declined to decide whether the notification or classification procedures were constitutional or not, because the case had a sparse factual record.

In another 1996 case, a U.S. District Court in New Jersey ruled that community notification for sex offenders who have served their sentences violates constitutional guarantees against ex post facto punishment.

Federal Law

The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Law was passed in May, 1996. The law was the first part of the federal version of "Megan's Law." On Sept. 13, 1996, the "Megan's Law" notification part of the legislation was passed. It gives states until Sept. 1997 to pass versions of "Megan's Law" or lose federal aid.

At least 47 states plus the District of Columbia have already passed legislation that requires registration of convicted sex offenders and some form of notification. Under the federal law it is up to the states to decide the risk level of an offender and what kind of community notification should be used.

Under judge's orders, Court TV was allowed to tape opening statements, closing statements and the verdict in the trial.


On May 30, 1997, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts of murder including capital murder, kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault.

Timmendequas faces the death penalty or a minimum of 30 years in prison. The arguments during the penalty phase are tentatively set to begin on June 9, 1997.

The defense is expected to present evidence that Timmendequas was physically and sexually abused as a child and has suffered psychological damage as a result.



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