CHICAGO – Illinois authorities on Wednesday began examining the remains of a 7-year-old girl who was abducted and killed more than 50 years ago, trying to find clues that would help them put together a criminal case against a 71-year-old former neighbor.
The body of Maria Ridulph was exhumed early Wednesday, weeks after authorities announced they’d arrested Jack Daniel McCullough in Seattle and charged him with murder in the death of the girl, who was abducted by a man as she played outside her home in Sycamore, Ill., in December 1957. Maria’s body was found the following spring in a wooded area about 120 miles from her home.
DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell said he hopes scientists now can “do a better examination of her remains here in 2011 than were conducted in 1958.
“Suffice it to say science has advanced, thankfully, greatly since that time,” Campbell said at a news conference.
McCullough, a onetime Sycamore resident, waived his right to extradition earlier this month. He was returned to Illinois on Wednesday to face a murder charge and was scheduled to appear in DeKalb County Circuit Court via closed-circuit television today for a bond hearing, authorities said. He has denied any involvement in the girl’s death.
When the girl’s body was found, the cause of death was listed as foul play because medical officials at the time lacked any other explanation, Campbell said.
“There’s a certain supposition that when a 7-year-old disappears and is found out in the woods that she was murdered,” but how that happened is unclear, Campbell said.
“I think the job done back then was outstanding considering the state of medical science at the time,” he said. “Now, we can look through the lens of modern science and see that it was inadequate.”
The body was taken to Kishwaukee Community Hospital for X-rays before being returned to the DeKalb County coroner’s office, where it will be examined by a team of experts, including from the FBI and the Illinois State Police, Campbell said.
“We are investigating the murder of a 7-year-old child,” Campbell told the (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle. “Suffice it to say, we’ll leave no stone unturned.”
Authorities have not said what they hope to find, but one cold case expert said a body that has been in a casket for more than 50 years can still reveal evidence crucial to prosecutors.
Maria’s oldest sibling said she cried after hearing her sister’s body had been exhumed, even though she knew it was going to happen.
“It’s brought it back again and crammed it into our faces,” said Patricia Quinn, 70, of Morris. “I had put it to rest a long time ago.”