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Details Convey Horror of Megan’s Death

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Providing descriptions of abuse so graphic that jurors looked stricken, a prosecutor charged Monday that a twice-convicted sex offender deliberately murdered 7-year-old Megan Kanka, led police to her body and repeatedly confessed to the crime.

“That man, the defendant, had been watching that little girl for months,” prosecutor Kathryn Flicker said in her opening arguments, gesturing toward Jesse K. Timmendequas, 36.

The July 1994 murder led to a federal requirement that states pass statutes ordering notification when a convicted sex offender moves into a neighborhood. The statutes, called “Megan’s Laws,” are under constitutional challenge in state and federal courts.

Flicker told the jury that Megan fought back after the defendant lured her into his home, which was across the street from the Kanka residence in Hamilton Township, N.J., with the promise of seeing a puppy.

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“Unsuspecting, trusting 7-year-old Megan walked into the defendant’s house,” Flicker said. “She would never walk out.”

The prosecutor said Timmendequas strangled the child with his belt and sexually attacked her before placing her body in a toy chest and dumping the corpse in a park two miles from his home.

As Timmendequas sat expressionless and Maureen Kanka, Megan’s mother, watched with rage showing on her face, Flicker quoted from his alleged confession.

“I was afraid she would tell her mother. . . . I was afraid I would get in trouble and go to jail,” she said Timmendequas told authorities, explaining why he had killed the youngster.

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The prosecutor said Megan bit Timmendequas on the hand--teeth marks that were identified by a forensic dentist as belonging to the victim.

“Megan literally left her mark, a mark that would literally link her to Jesse Timmendequas,” Flicker told the jury.

“When he killed Megan . . . he meant to kill, he chose to kill,” the prosecutor said, who has asked for the death penalty. “You will see that the defendant did not kill by mistake. He did not kill by accident. . . . He did not want her to survive.”

Public defender Barbara Lependorf urged the jury to try to keep an open mind and view the confessions skeptically.

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“A confession, a so-called confession, an admission . . . is not different from any other evidence that will be presented to you,” she said. “You will be judging the credibility of those statements.

“You have to look at those statements objectively, analytically, levelheadedly,” the defense attorney urged.

Few cases have aroused as much emotion as Kanka’s murder. It was a suburban parent’s nightmare and struck a national nerve, stimulated in part by the Kanka family’s activism as it campaigned for community notification.

The big, wood-paneled Mercer County courtroom was filled with spectators and reporters when the first witness--Megan’s mother--testified.

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Maureen Kanka identified stained and bloody fragments of clothing her daughter had been wearing the July night in 1994 when she was killed. She said she never knew a convicted sex offender lived across the street.

She described her panic when Megan was missing and said she spoke briefly with Timmendequas soon after the slaying and asked him if he knew Megan’s whereabouts.

Kanka said the defendant told her he had seen Megan earlier with a friend.

“He was very normal-speaking, calm, very matter of fact,” Kanka said, explaining to the jury it was the first time she had ever spoken to the neighbor.

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She said the conversation lasted “maybe about 10 seconds.”

Megan’s mother told of the massive search for her youngest daughter. The Kanka family has two other children, a girl who was 12 and a son who was 9 when Megan was killed.

Several times, tears filled her eyes and her voice quavered. At one point, Judge Andrew J. Smithson offered her a tissue.

“They told us Megan had been murdered. I just sat there. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t react. I was just numb,” she told the court as she fought back tears.

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Timmendequas was convicted twice previously for sexual offenses. In 1981, he took a 5-year-old girl into the woods, where he pulled down her pants. He received a suspended sentence. The next year, he was found guilty of attempting to sexually assault a 7-year-old girl whom he choked into unconsciousness. A judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison for that attack. But, because of good behavior, he was released after six years.

Timmendequas moved into a house across the street from the Kanka residence with two other sexual offenders he had met while incarcerated.

Flicker said in the days ahead, the prosecution will present testimony from officers who will describe how Timmendequas took police directly to the child’s body. Pathologists will tell of Megan’s wounds. Significant portions of the defendant’s alleged confessions will be read aloud.

“The testimony will be unpleasant, very unpleasant to say the least,” the prosecutor warned.

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