Tours at Nebraska's governor's mansion led by convicted killer

Associated Press/April 4, 2008

Omaha, Nebraska - 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 private tours of the Colonial-style home and its collections of dolls, silver and other state mementos, state officials said Thursday.

Timothy Haverkamp, convicted of second-degree murder in 1985 for his role in the cult-related murder of two people near Rulo, was one of three inmates working at the mansion under a decades-old arrangement with the state's work release program, said Ashley Cradduck, spokeswoman for Gov. Dave Heineman.

Haverkamp's placement was first reported in Thursday editions of the Daily Nebraskan, the student newspaper at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Haverkamp, 45, has worked at the residence since 2001, earning little more than $1 an hour for various jobs, including giving tours, Cradduck said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Haverkamp was 24 when he began his murder sentence.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Connie Nemec said inmates working at the mansion are thoroughly screened by state patrol and mansion staff to make sure the placement is appropriate.

"He would have to exhibit ... exemplary behavior and interest in programming to get to where he's employed at the mansion," she said.

It was not clear whether Heineman knew Haverkamp worked at the residence. Heineman spokeswoman Jen Rae Hein said he was traveling and unavailable for comment.

The home of the state's top public official, located south of downtown Lincoln, has had a handful of inmates on staff for at least 40 years. Typically, they help with household chores, clean the state limousine and serve at luncheons and dinners, all while under supervision.

It was not clear whether Haverkamp was the first or only convicted murderer to serve the residence or guide tours. Cradduck said it was possible other murderers had worked there, but records did not date back to the beginning of the program and were not kept for inmates who worked there and were released.

Haverkamp was not present when an Associated Press reporter went to the mansion Thursday afternoon during public tour hours. Several school groups were guided by two women.

Cradduck said Haverkamp was working at the residence Thursday, but he and other inmates were not present during public hours because there were no special events scheduled. Havercamp was one of several people available to give private tours to groups that request them, she said.

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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