Convicted Killer Gives Neb. Governor's Mansion Tours

This story was written by Rachel Albin, Daily Nebraskan
Timothy Haverkamp points to an unfinished pineapple in a design that's carved in the grand staircase at the governor's mansion, and explains the artist left it incomplete out of superstition.

Lines on the rug below his feet represent the state rock, he says, and the abstract painting in the sitting room off the foyer depicts Lincoln's landmark buildings.

Haverkamp rattles off details about each room without notes. The stories and facts are rooted in his mind after leading hundreds of tours through the governor's residence.

He has worked at the mansion for years. He is also a murderer.

The governor's staff does not openly admit this fact, and would rather not see it printed in a newspaper.

Haverkamp, 45, who declined comment on this story, got the job because of his good behavior and participation in programs with Nebraska's Department of Corrections.

Showing off the governor's silver set is a far stretch from where Haverkamp was in 1985, when he was entangled with a cult in Richardson County.

The trouble began with farm foreclosures in the area. Feeling wronged by the government, a small group of farmers and their families, including Haverkamp, united under the white supremacist, anti-government religious teachings of Mike Ryan. They prepared for their future, giving up farming and planning for the battle of Armageddon.

The group of about 20 adults and children stockpiled stolen farm equipment, weapons and food and awaited Earth's final days as they tried to follow the will of their god.

James Thimm fell out of grace and was punished by five of his fellow cult members, including Haverkamp.

They shot off Thimm's fingers, sodomized him with a shovel, threw him in an open grave and shot him in the head.

Since then, several participants in the slaying were released from prison. Only Ryan and Haverkamp remain incarcerated.

Ryan sits on death row for killing Thimm and a child in the cult. Haverkamp was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 10 years to life in prison.

Over time, Haverkamp's good behavior gave him chances to move to two less-restrictive facilities.

He resides at the Community Corrections Center in Lincoln, a minimum security institution populated mostly, but not solely, by non-violent and white-collar criminals.

Five days a week, Haverkamp leaves the institution to give tours at the governor's mansion, a job he loves.

Soft-spoken and bow-tied, he shares his expert knowledge of "Nebraska's House" with foreign visitors, fourth graders learning Nebraska history and anyone else who wants to listen.

With good behavior, positive assessments and participation in programs to diffuse crime-causing personal issues, inmates can better their time on the inside, and sometimes work their way out.

"As a department, we want to place people in the least restrictive custody that they can be in as long as it doesn't affect public safety," said Kyle Poppert, the public information officer for Nebraska Corrections.

Inmates find jobs through corrections for many reasons: to pass the time, to learn or improve skills and to make money.

This work can include performing maintenance at correctional institutions or building furniture. Those deemed ready are re-introduced into the community through jobs at private businesses, where only a supervisor or two may know a convict's history.

Inmates blend in, even at the governor's mansion, where Haverkamp's past is kept private from tourists.

Ashley Cradduck, a spokeswoman for Gov. Dave Heineman, said she wished to respect Haverkamp's privacy.

"Prisoners don't walk different or dress different," said Rex Richard, the warden of the Community Corrections Center. "They just show up and do their job."

With enouh good behavior, some can walk free.

Inmates are reviewed by the Nebraska Board of Parole annually, when the board decides whether or not to grant a parole hearing - the key to release.

Haverkamp had a parole board review on Wednesday, but a decision will be held until the board meets in a closed session next week.

Haverkamp's reviews have been sent to this second meeting many times. The parole board has deferred the decision to give him a hearing since 1992, when he first became eligible for parole.

This pattern could continue for another few decades. Haverkamp, who has expressed regret for his actions and resolved to follow the law, still has a maximum sentence of life in prison.
© 2008 Daily Nebraskan via U-WIRE