Maria Ridulph, 7, was kidnapped and murdered in Sycamore, Illinois in 1957. Now her slayer, 73- year-old Jack McCullough, is facing life in prison, the maximum sentence for his crimes.
In December 1957, Maria was abducted from the rural region where she lived, around Sycamore. She had been playing with a friend by the name of Kathy Chapman and a 17-year-old boy who the pair knew as “Johnny.”
“Johnny” was identified as John Tessier, the name that McCullough was using at the time. A neighbor of theirs, he introduced himself as they were playing on a street corner and offered to give the little girl a a piggyback ride,” Chicago Tribune details.
Chapman went home to bring her gloves and, as she returned, the two had vanished. His parents provided him an alias when he was questioned by the police, as he was included in their first round of suspects.
McCullough enrolled in the military right after the incident, and changed his name following his discharge. In the 1980s, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge, having been accused of child abuse in the case of a teenage girl who had run away from home, and was taken in by his girlfriend.
In 2010, it was another girlfriend that went to the police to express doubt over his alibi that day. Chapman was called in to take another look at his photo from years ago, and she recognized him as “Johnny.” He was only apprehended in 2011, after his half-sister came forward with allegations.
Mary Hunt accused him of raping her when she was just 14 years old, along with two other men. He stood trial for the charges, but was acquitted.
She also told officers a gruesome tale that had been passed on by their mother, on her death bed. She had known about the crime her brother committed since 1994, and apologized to the family for not coming forward sooner.
“Our family just wants to express our deep sadness that this tragedy had to go on for so long and this secret had to be kept for so long,” Hunt said.
McCullough was arrested in Washington, and his case was only finalized in September 2012, when he was convicted.
“Even after 55 years, people can be brought to justice,” Maria's brother Charles Ridulph says, according to ABC 7 News.
“It's a sense of relief. Finally, it's run its course and we've put it to rest,” the victim's friend, who identified the killer, says.
He is bound to spend the rest of his natural life in prison, receiving additional sentences of 5 years for kidnapping and 7 years for abduction.
McCullough continues to advocate his innocence, and will be appealing the decision.
“I did not, did not, kill Maria Ridulph. It was a crime I did not, would not, could not have done,” he testified in court.