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Father of Megan’s killer says abuse allegations are all lies

June 13, 1997 GMT

BLYTHE, Calif. (AP) _ His old face looks like the 15 miles of bad road leading to his trailer camp.

James Edward Howard has been a lot of things in his life, under several different names. Convict, fugitive, raging racist. But rapist, child molester and animal killer, he says, aren’t on the list.

His son Jesse K. Timmendequas, 36, stands convicted in New Jersey and could be executed for the rape and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka. The little girl’s slaying led to passage of Megan’s Law, the federal statute requiring that neighbors to be notified when a child molester is living in their midst.

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The jury deciding on Timmendequas’ punishment heard testimony this week that his father raped him, beat him and killed animals in front of him to seal his silence. ``All lies,″ his father said Thursday.

Howard said he hasn’t seen his son in 29 years and has no idea why any of this is happening. But he does know two things: He hopes Jesse gets the death penalty, and he never wants to see him again. In fact, he said, ``I couldn’t walk into a courtroom without putting my hands around his throat.″

The father wept. ``Of course I blame myself,″ he said. ``What father wouldn’t? What was in my genes? I’ve spent hours and hours and hours, sleepless nights ... especially when it first started.″

In 1981, his son was convicted of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl. A year later, he was convicted of attempted assault on a 7-year-old. When he confessed to raping Megan and strangling her with a belt, he told police he had been ``getting those feelings again for little girls.″

Every one of Howard’s 70 years is chiseled in his countenance. His inch-long hair stands on end, as if he had just gotten out of bed. He lives with his wife, Marie, their 22-year-old son, 11 dogs, chickens, a turkey and a tarantula, all housed in a confusing collection of rundown trailers.

The outpost in Smoketree Valley is south of Interstate 10 near the Arizona state line, off rocky desert trails that can shred tires.

A reporter and photographer got a lift in a sheriff’s four-wheel-drive. ``You go up there in an unmarked car and you could be met with guns,″ Deputy Dan Garin said.

Howard’s is one of several encampments occupied by white separatists with guns who live without running water right next to a Marine bombing range.

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``I don’t think they’re card-carrying members of the KKK,″ Garin said. ``But they have a certain mindset.″

Howard makes no bones about being racist. ``I don’t like what the blacks have done to this country,″ he said. ``That’s why I came out here.″

That and because he was on the lam for stabbing a man in a knifefight. He eluded authorities for 15 years, he said, long enough for the statute of limitations to run out.

He was born Charles Hall. As an adult, he adopted the last name Timmendequas from an American Indian family who took him in. Then he changed his name again to avoid prison buddies who came calling after their release.

He has done time for burglary and theft. It was after serving a five-year sentence that he left New Jersey and his two sons, Jesse, then 7, and Paul, then 4.

It is Paul, now 33, who testified via videotape this week that his father repeatedly raped him and his brother, tortured and killed their pets, and once raped a neighbor girl in front of them.

The boys’ mother, Doris Unangst, has not been heard from. Howard said he left the family at her request, because she wanted to return to a former husband. ``I gave Doris my word that I would never interfere with the raising of the children,″ Howard said.

He said he hasn’t spoken to Jesse since. He returned to New Jersey 12 years ago, with Marie, after bouncing from job to job in nearly every state. There, he met up with Paul, and the son traveled with them to Las Vegas, Howard said.

``He had a couple of drinks and started bragging about how he and Jesse molested their half-sister up in the attic of my ex-wife’s house,″ Howard said. ``Marie had to pull me off of him.″

That was the last time he saw Paul, Howard said. Suffering from cancer, and attached for the rest of his life to a colostomy bag, Howard said he has a hard time remembering dates. But the years that Paul claims were full of abuse, Howard said, were years he was in prison.

``If I raped a little neighbor girl,″ Howard said, ``where’s the family? Where’s the police report?″

Paul Timmendequas, Howard said, must be trying to save his brother’s life.