CHICAGO – A Seattle man was charged Friday in the long-unsolved slaying of a 7-year-old girl who was abducted in 1957 near her home in northern Illinois, prosecutors said.
DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell said that Jack Daniel McCullough, 71, was charged with murdering Maria Ridulph, who was abducted while playing with a friend near her home in Sycamore, about 50 miles west of Chicago.
The search for Maria involved more than 1,000 law enforcement officers and numerous other community members, and it caught the attention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Campbell said in a written statement.
Maria disappeared on Dec. 3, and the search lasted five months, until two people foraging for mushrooms in Jo Davies County, in the northwest corner of the state, found her remains on April 26, 1958.
Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in King County, said McCullough is scheduled for a first appearance today at the King County Jail on investigation of being a fugitive from justice. Sycamore police Chief Don Thomas said McCullough was picked up for questioning on Wednesday night.
“This crime has haunted Sycamore for half a century. We hope that the family of Maria Ridulph and this community can find some solace and closure with this arrest,” Campbell said.
Charles Ridulph, the brother of the victim, told the Chicago Sun-Times his family is in shock over the arrest of a suspect in his sister’s death.
“For all these years, my assumption was that he was dead – that he would have been dead – otherwise something would have come up before this time,” said Ridulph, 65. That the suspect is someone the family knew from the neighborhood “is just an added shock,” he said.
Officials said McCullough, who was 18 and named John Tessier at the time of Maria’s disappearance, was an initial suspect but had an alibi. The case went cold after he joined the military and changed his name to McCullough.
Thomas said the Illinois State Police received new information a couple of years ago that led them to McCullough.
“We were able recently to totally disallow (McCullough’s) alibi with fresh information and new interviews,” Thomas said.