Jesse Timmendequas is charged with the murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka in New Jersey. Kanka’s death inspired Megan’s Law, a statute enacted in 1994 requiring that information about convicted sex felons be available to the public. Versions of Megan’s Law have been passed in many states since her murder.
Megan had last been seen riding her bike outside her home in West Windsor Township, New Jersey, on July 29. Her parents found her bike on the front lawn and immediately began to search for her. The following day, her body was discovered in Mercer County Park. Jesse Timmendequas, who lived across the street from Kanka and had two prior convictions for sexual assault, was arrested.
In the aftermath of this horrible crime, Megan’s parents lobbied state legislators for a new law, arguing that if they had known about Timmendequas’ background they would have been able to protect their daughter. New Jersey and several other states passed laws following the public outcry. A database of all types of sex offenders is now accessible through a 900 number and CD-ROMs at police stations around the state.
Yet problems have arisen from Megan’s Law. Apparently inspired by the circulation of flyers describing his previous sexual offense, Michael Patton committed suicide in July 1998. In addition, homosexuals who were prosecuted years earlier for consensual sex with adults must be registered in this database. People in some communities have driven sex offenders out of town, often using violence and illegal means. Evidence as to the ability of Megan’s Law to actually protect children or deter crime was inconclusive in the first few years of its enactment. Megan’s Law became a federal law in 1996.