It was on this day in 1996 that President Bill Clinton signed “Megan’s Law” into existence, requiring notification of residents when a sex offender moved into their neighborhood. T

he law was named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old Hamilton Township girl who was raped and murdered by a neighbor, Jesse Timmendequas, who had prior sex offenses.

Timmendequas had two prior convictions for assaulting young girls and had been incarcerated at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel for six years; it was there that he met the two other sex offenders with whom he shared a house across the street from the Kankas. The Kankas had no idea that their neighbors were sex offenders.

On the day of the crime, Timmendequas tricked Megan by asking her if she wanted to see his puppy; he took her inside his home where he raped her and strangled her with a belt, killing her.

He confessed to investigators the next day and led them to Mercer County Park where he had placed her body. He was tried and convicted on charges of kidnapping, four counts of aggravated sexual assault, and two counts of felony murder.

He was sentenced to death and stayed on death row until 2007 when the New Jersey Legislature abolished the death penalty.

In the aftermath of the crime, people were outraged that those sex offenders, all three of whom committed their crimes against children, were allowed to live anonymously in a neighborhood filled with children.

A month after the murders, the New Jersey Legislature passed a series of bills that set up a sex offender registry to track the despicable human beings through a state database, and required community notification when a registered sex offender moved into the neighborhood.

The federal version was introduced by New Jersey U.S. Rep. Dick Zimmer in 1995 and passed by both the House and Senate in 1996 before being signed by President Clinton

The Kankas started a foundation named for Megan to advocate for the public’s right to know, and for the safety of children.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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