Jesse Timmendequas, a twice-convicted sex offender, is behind bars for the murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka, who lived across the street from his home in Hamilton Township, New Jersey.
It was a crime that inspired Megan’s Law, a federal requirement that mandates all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, to notify residents about a convicted sex offender moving into their neighborhoods.
According to the NY Daily News, every so often, Megan would ride her bicycle through her neighborhood, visiting friends and picking flowers to give to her mother when she returned home.
But on the evening of July 29, 1994, she went outside to ride her bicycle and never came back.Her parents, Richard and Maureen Kanka, went door-to-door, asking neighbors if they had seen her.
Some claimed to have seen her earlier that day, including Timmendequas, who, according to the Los Angeles Times, “was very normal-speaking, calm, and very matter of fact” when he told the child’s parents that he saw her riding her bicycle with her friends.
When Richard and Maureen were unable to find their daughter, they contacted the Hamilton Township Police Division and reported Megan Kanka missing.
During a massive search for the missing child, law enforcement officers ascertained that there were three sex offenders, Joseph Cifelli, Jesse Timmendequas, then 36, and Brian Jenin, living across the street from the Kanka family.
All three men were questioned about Megan’s disappearance. Cifelli and Jenin had alibis. Both men asserted that they were out shopping at the time Megan vanished without a trace.
Meanwhile, Timmendequas, who officials said appeared to be nervous during questioning, was in the area at the time Megan went missing, but he said he had nothing to do with her disappearance.
He went to the police station to make a statement, and due to the lack of evidence against him, he was able to return to his home without being arrested.
That changed the following day when law enforcement officers rummaged through a trash bin outside his home and found a knotted rope with dried blood and torn clothing.
When police questioned him about the items found in the trash, Timmendequas confessed to kidnapping, raping, and murdering Megan Kanka.
He told investigators that he lured Megan to his home with the promise of showing her his new puppy. Once inside, Timmendequas took her to an upstairs bedroom, where he raped her.
NY Times reported that when Megan screamed and fought back, Timmendequas grabbed a leather belt that was hanging from his door and strangled her with it until she fell on the floor and she began to bleed.
To prevent the blood from pouring onto his floor, he put a bag over her head and then placed her body in a large toy box.
Before dumping her body at Mercer County Park, Timmendequas admitted to police that he placed his fingers inside her vagina and commenced “playing with her a little.”
When authorities asked Timmendequas why he would kill Megan, he said, “I was afraid she would tell her mother… I was afraid I would get in trouble and go to jail.”
Less than 24 hours after she was reported missing, Hamilton Township police found Megan Kanka’s body at Mercer County Park. Just as Timmendequas described, there was a bag over her head and a brown trash bag tied around her neck.
“It was tight,” said Lt. Thomas Wilkins. “It was firmly against the skin to the point that to cut it off, I had to force my fingers under the bag to get the scissors in to cut it.”
Her remains were transported to the state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy. The pathologist determined that Megan’s cause of death was mechanical strangulation.
Following a trial in 1997, a jury found Jesse Timmendequas guilty of murdering Megan Kanka, and within the same year, he was sentenced to death.
The state of New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007, and Timmendequas’ sentence was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
6 ABC reported that none of the residents were aware that there were three sex offenders living in the neighborhood. Megan’s parents stated that if they had known that, they would never allowed their daughter to play outside unattended.
Her legacy lives on through Megan’s Law, which has helped save “countless other children.”