New Jersey Bans Death Penalty - Megan's Law Killer Commuted to Life

New Jersey Bans Death Penalty - Megan's Law Killer Commuted to Life
New Jersey’s Governor Jon Corzine signed a new bill this week abolishing the death penalty in The Garden State. Although, New Jersey is officially the first state banning the death penalty, there have been no inmates executed in New Jersey since 1963. New Jersey’s new law outlawing the execution of prisoners sentenced to death affects eight inmates. Jesse Timmendequas is one of the eight inmates whose life, or rather his death, is now significantly affected. In 1997, Jesse Timmendequas received a conviction and death sentence for the brutal rape, beating, and strangulation murder of Megan Nicole Kanka. Timmendequas confessed and led police to Megan’s body days after her murder July 29, 1994.

Megan Nicole Kanka was the seven-year-old daughter of Richard and Maureen Kanka. She lived with her family of five in a quiet suburb of New Jersey. Her parents raising their family in the same home for 15 years, before Jesse Timmendequas moved in across the street. Megan's parents were unaware that Jesse Timmendequas had previous convictions for child sexual assaults on a five and seven-year-old child, and that he had already served 6 years in prison. In 1994, it was a different world for convicted sex offenders, and sex offenders were not required to register with local authorities when they moved.

The Kanka's had no idea a convicted sex offender lived dangerously close to their family. Jesse Timmendequas used a common and simple lure to gain Megan’s interest to go with him the morning to get the seven year old to come to his house; he offered to show her his puppy. After isolating Megan in his house less than 30 feet from her own home, Timmendequas beat Megan, raped her and used a belt to strangle her. Later he crammed Megan’s body into a plastic toy bin and disposed of her body in a park. Timmendequas was rooming with two other convicted sex offenders, Brian Jenin and Joseph Cifelliboth, both whom he met in prison.

Megan’s Law is a direct result of Megan's murder, and eighty-nine days after Megan's brutal murder, New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman signed the first version of Megan's Law into effect. The federal version of Megan’s Law, was signed in May of 1996, by President Clinton. Currently, all fifty states have a version of Megan’s law in place, although each state tends to vary on how it notifies citizens regarding sex offenders in the area.

Megan’s father is certain had he and his wife known about Timmendequas and his violent sexual history regarding children, then his daughter would be alive today. As her parents state on Megan’s website “Megan could have been any body's child. She was everybody's child, a poignant symbol of the obligation that each of us has to make sure that children are safe in their own community and that every parent has the right to know when a child is in harm's way.” Megan’s Law helps parents protect their child, helps people know who is living in their neighborhood or community that maybe a danger to their child.

Megan’s parents waited three years for Jesse Timmendequas to stand on trial for the murder of their seven-year-old daughter, Megan Nicole Kanka. The key pieces of evidence that led to Jesse Timmendequas conviction were the bite mark Megan left on Jesse’s hand and Jesse’s own confession to police. Richard and Maureen Kanka asked the prosecutor to “go for the maximum penalty.” The Kanka’s rejoiced when they heard that Jesse Timmendequas received the death penalty, and Richard Kanka said, “we never wavered from that initial thought."

The Megan Kanka Story is far from over, Jesse Timmendequas, was given a new sentence thirteen years after killing the seven-year-old girl. Thirteen years after he put plastic garbage bags over her head to keep her blood off his floor, and he stuffed her body into a pink plastic toy chest, the death penalty is illegal. Jesse Timmendequas will now live in prison until he dies. He has destroyed many lives. May his days be endlessly long and his nights endless. May he see Megan’s face every time he closes his eyes and perhaps he will know one day the true pain he has inflicted upon others.

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