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Jury returns guilty verdict in 'Megan's Law' case

Megan Kanka May 30, 1997
Web posted at: 2:23 p.m. EDT (1823 GMT)

TRENTON, New Jersey (CNN) -- A New Jersey jury on Friday found Jesse Timmendequas guilty of sexual assault and murder charges for the 1994 slaying of 7-year-old Megan Kanka, whose death led to a nationwide movement to protect children from sexual predators.

The jury returned its verdict less than 24 hours after receiving the case. Timmendequas could receive the death penalty for his conviction. The sentencing phase of the trial will follow.


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On July 29, 1994, Timmendequas, a twice-convicted sex offender, lured Megan into his house across the street from hers to see a puppy, then raped her and strangled her with a belt. A day later, he led police to the body in a nearby park.

During the trial, the defense maintained Timmendequas was working on a boat at his house, and that it was Megan who asked Timmendequas if she could see the puppy. They also said Timmendequas, 36, was a vulnerable man who confessed to police to protect his two roommates, also convicted child molesters.

Murder spawned legislation

In the aftermath of the murder, neighbors were outraged to learn Timmendequas had two previous sex convictions and that they were never informed. He had been convicted in a 1981 attack on a 5-year-old child and an attempted sexual assault on a 7-year-old child.

Megan's mother campaigned for laws to require that neighbors be notified when sex criminals move into an area after they have served their time in prison.

Timmendequas

Versions of "Megan's Law" were passed in New Jersey and other states. In all 50 states, a paroled sex offender must register his residency with local authorities, and all but five states require some form of notification when a convicted sex offender moves in.

President Clinton signed a federal "Megan's Law" bill last year, but the law has been challenged in state and federal courts.

Prosecutors were barred from mentioning Timmendequas' previous record at trial, but jurors heard references to it in statements Timmendequas made to police about getting "those feelings" for little girls again.

 
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