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Creation Of Megan's Law - The Tragic Case Of Megan Kanka

Unveil the harrowing origins of Megan's Law with the tragic tale of Megan Kanka's murder. Delve into the heart-wrenching events that spurred the creation of this pivotal legislation, shedding light on its importance in safeguarding communities.

Vincent Bloodworth
Vincent Bloodworth
Feb 14, 20240 Shares0 Views
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  1. What Was The Status Of Megan Kanka?
  2. The Neighborhood Criminal
  3. Establishment Of Megan's Law
  4. The Effect Of Megan's Statute
  5. Megan's Law Expansions
Creation Of Megan's Law - The Tragic Case Of Megan Kanka

*The details of violence, including sexual violence, that follow are alarming. The reader is cautioned to use caution.*

At the age of seven, Megan Kanka was raped and killed in July 1994. Her family was next door to her killer's residence. The Kankas were unaware that their neighbor had previously been found guilty of sexual assaults against two other young girls.

After Megan passed away, her parents and other supporters pushed for legislation that would guarantee the public was informed when a sexual offender relocated into their neighborhood. This led to the creation of Megan's Law.

What Was The Status Of Megan Kanka?

Seven-year-old Megan Kanka vanished from her Hamilton Township, New Jersey, neighborhood on July 29, 1994. Her parents discovered her abandoned bike on their front lawn, and a search was launched. Numerous neighbors helped them out, including the 33-year-old Jesse K. Timmendequas who lived across the street from the Kankas.

Timmendequas revealed that when he lived across the street, he had been watching Megan play. "I would get sweaty palms and my heart would race," he remarked as he was doing it.

Timmendequas admitted to investigators throughout several interviews that he had asked Megan to visit his home in order to meet his new puppy. He had slapped her once inside before attacking her sexually. He said that he had choked Megan in order to prevent her from informing her mother that he had "touched" her.

Investigators discovered shredded shreds of fabric that Timmendequas had touched in trash cans; Megan's mother identified the material as coming from the shorts her daughter had been wearing. Timmendequas first denied the crime during his police questioning, but he later acknowledged killing Megan. He pointed the authorities to the location in Mercer County Park where he had left her body. On July 30, 1994, Megan's body was discovered.

Police found out that Cifelli had an alibis, as did another roommate, Brian R. Jenin, a convicted sex offender. Not Timmendequas, who had been found guilty in two other cases of sexual assault on young girls in New Jersey.

While searches for Megan went on, someone reported Joseph F. Cifelli, who shared a home with Timmendequas but was owned by Cifelli's mother, to the police. Accused of sodomy and carnal abuse of a five-year-old girl in 1976, Cifelli was found guilty of three lesser charges.

The Neighborhood Criminal

Before killing Kanka in October 1979, Timmendequas mistreated a five-year-old girl he had invited to go duck hunting with him. He consented to enter a guilty plea to attempted aggravated sexual assault after this attack. If he attended counseling, he could receive a suspended sentence instead of going to jail. He ended up staying in the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center for nine months as a result of his failure to attend therapeutic sessions.

Finding out about Kanka's predatory criminal past saddened her family and other people after her death. The prosecutor Kathryn Marsh, who specializes in cases involving child abuse and sexual assault, she states, "The community was outraged that they had not been made aware of this information."

Timmendequas was admitted to the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center, which treats sexual offenders, in Avenel, New Jersey. It is said that Timmendequas skipped therapy sessions while he was a resident at Avenel. He did get to know Jenin and Cifelli, his future roommates. Less than seven years into his sentence, Timmendequas was released, as was customary at the time.

Timmendequas entered a guilty plea to the charges of trying to have sex with someone and trying to hurt someone seriously. Ten years was the maximum punishment applicable to these offenses. The entire sentence was handed down by the judge, who described Timmendequas as a “compulsive, recurrent sexual offender” who “constitutes a danger to the society at large and to young children in particular."

Following his release in June 1981, Timmendequas used firecrackers as a lure to get a 7-year-old girl to accompany him on a walk in the adjacent woods. After attacking and strangling her, he fled when she became blue. When the girl's mother discovered her, she was still alive but unconscious.

Establishment Of Megan's Law

Even though Richard and Maureen Kanka, Megan's parents, had been residents of Hamilton Township for sixteen years, they were unaware that convicted sex offenders were located nearby. They claimed that they would not have allowed their daughter to play outside unattended if they had known.

"Megan's Law gave an opportunity for people in the community to be aware of those individuals, so that they could take necessary precautions to protect themselves and their children from those offenders," criminal lawyer and executive director of the Crime Victims Center Laura Ahearn tells in an interview.

A federal version of Megan's Law was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on May 17, 1996. States were allowed to determine their own notification guidelines, but every state was required by law to maintain some sort of public record so that people may be informed when a sexual offender relocated nearby.

Richard Kanka said in 1995, "We have said all along that no law is going to prevent every sexual assault on children." "However, it will be worthwhile if it saves even one child." "I have no problems opening my heart, crying, and being personal with strangers, as long as I can open somebody's eyes," Maureen Kanka declared in 1996.

The Kankas persisted in pushing for the enactment of Megan's Law in additional states.

The Kankas and others started advocating for a law requiring community notification when a sexual offender moved into an area shortly after Megan passed away. A few months after Megan's passing, at the end of October 1994, the governor of New Jersey signed Megan's Law into law.

The Effect Of Megan's Statute

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) reports that in cases of child sexual abuse, 34% of the perpetrators are family members and 59% are friends of the victim. Knowing the people in a child's life, especially their neighbors, is crucial to ensuring their safety.

"We can protect more children when we can limit the access of sexual predators to children, given that the majority of child sexual abuse cases are committed by someone the child knows, a family member, coach, neighbor, teacher, etc.," adds Marsh.

The murderer of Megan is presently incarcerated for life. Even though he had been given the death punishment at first, that was overturned when New Jersey abolished it.

Ahearn thinks Megan's Law also contributed to people's awareness of a pervasive social issue. "This process of people becoming aware of child sexual abuse by seeing sex offenders in the community was started by Meghan's Law and sexual registration."

Megan's Law Expansions

The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act (1994), which required registries of convicted sexual offenders but did not mandate community notification, was the law that came before Megan's Law. Other child-protection measures, such as the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, were enacted in response to Megan's Law. The Sex Offender Registry Notification Act was Title I of that legislation.

Court challenges have been made to Megan's Law and other statutes requiring community notice and sex offender registries. The laws' detractors claim that they infringe the civil liberties of sexual offenders, make rehabilitation difficult, and impose a second penalty for the same offense. Megan's Law and its heirs, however, are still in force.

President Barack Obama ratified the International Megan's Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes by Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders on February 8, 2016. Known as "International Megan's Law," it requires registered sexual offenders to disclose any overseas travel plans before departing the country. Passports offenders now bear a notification of conviction for sexual offenses against minors.

Marsh says, "Megan's Law was supplemented and expanded by the Adam Walsh Act and the Sex Offender Registry Notification Act (SORNA)." "In addition, these acts contributed to the establishment of greater consistency among the states regarding registration requirements, including the frequency of registration and the duration for which an individual must be on the registry."

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