Grant Schulte, Associated Press;
May 20, 2014
LINCOLN, Neb. – A Nebraskan who participated in a gruesome, cult-related murder in 1985 was granted a rare commutation Tuesday that will end his lifetime parole sentence later this year.
The Nebraska Board of Pardons voted unanimously to grant Timothy Haverkamp’s request to stop his parole supervision. Haverkamp was released from his prison in 2009 after serving 23 years of a 10-years-to-life sentence.
The state Pardons Board — made up of the governor, secretary of state and attorney general — rarely commutes sentences in murder cases. But board members noted that Haverkamp has met all of his parole requirements, held a regular job, and built a support base that includes friends and family.
Haverkamp said he asked for an end to his lifetime parole so that he might one day leave Nebraska, possibly to live closer to his aging parents in Kansas. Haverkamp said his current situation requires him to file paperwork before leaving the state, which could create delays if a parent were to grow sick or die.
“For right now, it’s not really going to affect anything,” he said. “I’m still going to keep the same job, live the same place, and do the same things I’ve been doing. But yes, eventually, I want to move to a different state — move somewhere where I have family.”
Haverkamp, 52, was convicted of second-degree murder for his role in the torture and murder of James Thimm, a fellow cult member, at a farm compound near Rulo in southeastern Nebraska. He pleaded guilty and later testified against cult leader Michael Ryan, who remains on death row. Haverkamp also was a key witness against Ryan’s son, Dennis.
For three days, Thimm was beaten, sexually abused, shot, stomped and partially skinned while still alive. His fingertips on one hand all were shot off. Despite the grisly nature of the crime, Thimm’s sister, Miriam Thimm Kelle, has said she forgave Haverkamp and supports his request to commute his parole sentence.
Michael Ryan ordered Thimm’s murder because he had displeased Yahweh, their god. Michael Ryan also was convicted in the beating death of the 5-year-old son of a cult member.
The Ryans and about 20 cult members lived on the farm. The group hated Jews and stored weapons in preparation for a final battle between good and evil.
Haverkamp’s request also was supported by the Nebraska Board of Parole, which approved his release in 2009.
Esther Casmer, the board’s chairwoman, said Haverkamp has behaved well since his release from prison and earned the rare privilege of having to report to his parole officer only every six months.
While incarcerated, Haverkamp was allowed to give tours at the governor’s residence in Lincoln through a prison work-release program. Since his release, he has since counseled ex-convicts, earned degrees from two community colleges and maintained a job in tool-and-die manufacturing.
“This is an unusual case, where we have someone before us who has such an exemplary record,” Gov. Dave Heineman said.
The 23-year prison sentence is “a substantial penalty to pay for the crime that was committed,” said Secretary of State John Gale.
“You’ve earned the right to parole — otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting before us today — and you’ve been very successful.”
Attorney General Jon Bruning said Haverkamp appears to have rehabilitated himself, and his continued meetings with parole officers would only waste tax dollars.
Haverkamp’s parole will end later this year; a precise date was not immediately determined. After the board’s vote, he rushed out of the Capitol and declined to speak to reporters.
Even with his sentence commuted, Haverkamp will face restrictions such as not being allowed to own a gun. Unlike a pardon, a commutation does not forgive a conviction.