Haskell Askin, forensic dentist, dies at 75

THE PRETTY little girl fell for one of the ruses that sex offenders use to lure their prey into the horror of their creepy passions.

Jesse K. Timmendequas, a convicted sex offender, told the 7-year-old girl who lived across the street from him in Hamilton Township, N.J., that he wanted to show her a puppy.

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Askin

Megan Kanka went into the man's house on that warm Friday night in June 1994 to see the nonexistent puppy and was brutally raped and savagely murdered.

Sometime during the attack, the feisty little girl managed to bite Timmendequas on his right hand with enough force that it was still swollen when police questioned him.

That bite mark became a crucial piece of evidence at Timmendequas' trial when forensic dentist Haskell Askin demonstrated to a Mercer County jury how the bite mark was made by Megan's teeth.

The Megan Kanka case, which resulted in the enactment of "Megan's Law," requiring the registration of sex offenders around the country, was one of the many high-profile cases over the years that called for Askin's special talents for identifying victims of crime and putting away the guilty.

Haskell Askin, a forensic dentist, or odontologist, a consultant to the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office, died Thursday of esophageal cancer. He was 75 and lived in Brick Township, N.J.

Over the years, Askin was called on to help identify victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, the MOVE disaster of 1985, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 and the fire at Six Flags Great Adventure that killed eight teenagers.

Another was the identification of the headless corpse of Maria Cubueons, believed murdered by Arthur Bomar, now on death row for the 1996 rape-murder of Aimee Willard. Askin had only her bones to examine when they were found in Tinicum Township, Bucks County, in 1998, but was able to make the identificaton.

Among Askin's less publicized accomplishments was bringing closure to many families whose relatives had disappeared.

There was Martin Michael Burkle, 16, who disappeared from his job at a gas station in Philadelphia on Oct. 13, 1975.

Although his body was found three days later in Gloucester Township, N.J., it was not identified and was buried in a potter's field.

It wasn't until June 2000 that, through dogged police work, the body was exhumed and positively identified by Askins as Burkle.

There was Gina Marie Gallo, 22, who disappeared in 1981, and was identified by Askins after her skeleton was found by hunters in Hamilton Township, N.J., in December 1997.

There was Shanina Gilmore, 15, a Camden High School student whose body was washed up on the beach at Margate, N.J., in February 2002 two weeks after she vanished. She had been murdered.

As a police investigator said at the time, "It's a sad ending for her family, but it at least lets them know what happened. Some families never know."

In the Megan Kanka case, Timmendequas was convicted and sentenced to death, but New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007 and his sentence was reduced to life in prison.

Haskell Askin was born in Buffalo, N.Y. His family moved to Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., where he attended high school.

He attended the University of Detroit, then transferred to Temple University and graduated from its School of Dentistry in 1959.

He opened a dental office in Brick, but, in 1995, decided to devote his career to forensics.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Sara Weiner; a son, Matthew; a daughter, Davina; and two grandchildren.

Services: Will be private.