Prosecutor: Man Convicted in 1957 Murder Is Innocent

Six-month review expected to lead to new trial
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 25, 2016 12:53 PM CDT
Prosecutor: Man Convicted in 1957 Murder Is Innocent
A file photo of Jack McCullough in the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore, Ill.   (Danielle Guerra)

A man convicted in the 1957 abduction and killing of a 7-year-old girl in northern Illinois could not have committed the crime, a prosecutor announced Friday after reviewing new evidence in the case. DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack said his six-month review firmed up an alibi and convinced him it was a "manifest impossibility" that Jack McCullough could have been anywhere near the area when Maria Ridulph disappeared in the small community of Sycamore. The girl vanished on Dec. 3, 1957, and was found dead several months later. The slaying remained a mystery for decades before McCullough, who was initially cleared in the case, was charged in 2011. McCullough, now 75, was a neighbor at the time of the killing. He was found guilty in 2012 after a renewed push to solve the case, and sentenced to life in prison.

New evidence included recently subpoenaed phone records proving that McCullough made a collect call to his parents from a phone booth in the city of Rockford, about 35 miles from Sycamore, just minutes after the abduction took place. Testimony that the abduction had taken place earlier has been discredited, Schmack said, meaning there was no possibility McCullough could have committed the crime and driven to Rockford in time to place that call. "I know there are people who will never believe that he is not responsible for the crime," Schmack said in a statement. "But I cannot allow that to sway me from my sworn duty." Schmack was not the state's attorney who prosecuted the case. His office was ordered to the conduct the review as part of a push by McCullough's attorney for a new trial. (More cold cases stories.)

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