Ex-Cop Convicted in 'Coldest Case Ever Solved' Appealing

Jack Daniel McCullough insists he didn't kill Maria Ridulph in 1957
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2014 10:40 AM CDT
Ex-Cop Convicted in 'Coldest Case Ever Solved' Appealing
This July 27, 2011, file photo provided by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department in Sycamore, Ill., shows Jack McCullough, of Seattle.   (AP Photo/DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, File)

Jack Daniel McCullough, the ex-cop serving a life sentence for a long-unsolved 1957 Illinois murder, is appealing his 2012 conviction. McCullough, 74, says his mother essentially accused him of Maria Ridulph's murder from the grave—she was sedated and lay dying in a hospital bed when she told McCullough's sisters, "John did it," prompting police to re-open the murder investigation. McCullough's attorneys say her accusation should have been considered hearsay and not disclosed in court; testimony revealed she was "emotionally disturbed," "confused," and at times "basically comatose" when she said it, and McCullough's sisters gave contradicting testimony on what their mother meant when she said "it."

  • McCullough's 80-page appeal also says "nostalgia" is to blame for his guilty verdict in what CNN calls the "coldest case ever solved." "I think the problem with Jack's trial is, it was all emotion-based," says McCullough's stepdaughter. WNIJ has a portion of the brief, which lists the evidence against McCullough as: "personal memories of what occurred 55 years ago; a photo identification made 53 years after the incident; testimony from jailhouse informants; innocuous statements from the defendant; and an improperly admitted and inconclusive statement from the defendant’s mother while on morphine and Haldol just before her death."
  • The star witness in McCullough's trial was Kathy Sigman Chapman, the last person to see Ridulph alive; she never identified McCullough as the stranger who gave her friend a piggyback ride just before her disappearance until 53 years later, and McCullough's appeal says the photo she identified differs from the description of the man she previously gave.
  • His lawyers point out that the judge excluded police and FBI reports from the initial 1957 investigation from current-day testimony, and McCullough was not allowed to present reports from that investigation showing he had been questioned and cleared at the time. The judge also barred a police detective's conclusion in the 1990s that another man, now dead, was the murderer, and prevented McCullough from calling that detective as a witness, the appeal asserts.
In another cold case recently solved, an alleged murderer from 1981 was found 33 years later, living as ... a church deacon. (More Jack McCullough stories.)

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