Man convicted in 1957 slaying of Illinois girl could go free


SYCAMORE, Ill. (AP) — A former security guard serving a life sentence in the 1957 slaying of a 7-year-old Illinois girl returns to court Tuesday in his battle to convince a judge he’s innocent, while the victim’s brother has demanded the appointment of a special prosecutor to keep the man behind bars.

Jack McCullough, 76, was convicted in 2012 in one of the oldest cases in the U.S. ever to go to trial. But last week, the DeKalb County state’s attorney released the findings of a six-month review that convinced him McCullough could not have committed the crime. State’s Attorney Richard Schmack, who had no role in McCullough’s prosecution, found fault with the investigation and said new evidence corroborated an alibi.

The review gives new momentum to McCullough’s bid for freedom, and the case will be back before a DeKalb County court Tuesday afternoon, not far from Sycamore, where Maria Ridulph was abducted, stabbed and choked to death. But the review is also plunging Ridulph’s family back into the decades of emotional turmoil they’ve endured since the little girl disappeared from a quiet street corner where she was playing in the snow more than half a century ago.

Her brother, Charles Ridulph, filed a motion Monday asking the judge to appoint a special prosecutor. Like other family members, he remains convinced McCullough is the killer and he hopes an outside prosecutor will ensure the man stays behind bars.

“My sister Maria was snatched away, raped and murdered, abandoned in the woods,” Ridulph, 70, of Sycamore, wrote in the filing, according to The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle. “And now, Richard Schmack has abandoned her yet again and he has done so for the wrong reasons.”

Schmack said in a scathing filing last week that his review, which was prompted by McCullough’s motion for post-conviction relief, turned up serious missteps during the investigation and prosecution. He also said there was new evidence supporting a McCullough alibi.

The new evidence included recently subpoenaed phone records that proved McCullough made a collect call to his parents from a phone booth in downtown Rockford, Illinois, about 35 miles from Sycamore, just minutes after the abduction took place.

That had always been McCullough’s professed alibi, though the precise location of the phone had previously come under doubt, with some suggesting it may have been closer.

Testimony that the abduction had taken place earlier was also discredited, Schmack determined, meaning there was no possibility McCullough could have committed the crime and then driven to Rockford in time to place that call.