Tours at Nebraska governor’s mansion led by man convicted of cult-related murder

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A convicted killer doing time for one of the most heinous murders in Nebraska history is serving his work release at the Governor’s Mansion, guiding tours of the Colonial-style home and its collections of dolls, silver and other state mementos, an official said Thursday.

Timothy Haverkamp, convicted of second-degree murder in 1985 for his role in the cult-related murder of two people near Rulo, is one of several inmates working at the mansion under a decades-old arrangement with the state’s work release program, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Connie Nemec said.

Nemec said Haverkamp, 45, has worked at the residence in various capacities, including giving tours. He was 24 when he began his sentence.

Nemec said inmates working at the mansion are screened by the state patrol and mansion staff to make sure the placement was appropriate.

“He would have to exhibit … exemplary behavior and interest in programming to get to where he’s employed at the mansion,” she said.

Gov. Dave Heineman’s spokeswoman, Jen Rae Hein, declined to comment on the story, which was first reported by the Daily Nebraskan, the student newspaper at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in its Thursday edition.

The home of the state’s top public official, located south of downtown Lincoln, has been staffed by a handful of inmates for at least 40 years. Typically, they help with household chores, clean the state limousine and serve at luncheons and dinners.

It was not immediately clear how long Haverkamp has worked at the mansion, or whether he was the first or only convicted murderer to serve there or guide tours. He was not present when an Associated Press reporter went to the mansion Thursday afternoon during tour hours. Several school groups were guided by two women.

Haverkamp pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was a key witness in testifying against cult leader Michael Ryan and his son, Dennis Ryan.

The Ryans and about 20 cult members lived on a farm near Rulo. The group hated Jews and stored weapons in preparation for a final battle between good and evil.

Michael Ryan, known to cult members as the “King,” ordered the murder of James Thimm because he had displeased Yahweh, their god. He is on death row for Thimm’s murder and the beating death of the 5-year-old son of a cult member.

Over three days, Thimm was beaten, sexually abused, shot, stomped and partially skinned while still alive. His fingertips had been shot off on one hand.

Dennis Ryan, known as the “High Prince,” was 15 when he allegedly delivered the gunshot that killed Thimm after a month of torture.

However, the younger Ryan was later released from prison after winning a new trial and being convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Dennis Ryan testified against his father at a 1997 hearing and said he was told to downplay his father’s role in the killings.

Associated Press Writer Anna Jo Bratton in Lincoln contributed to this report.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday April 4, 2008.
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