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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.