A man convicted four years ago in the oldest cold case ever tried was freed Friday after an Illinois judge vacated his conviction and subsequent life sentence, CNN reports. According to CBS News, 76-year-old Jack McCullough was convicted of kidnapping a 7-year-old girl, choking her, and stabbing her to death in 1957. The case was reopened in 2008, and McCullough was arrested in 2011 and convicted the following year. After an appeal by McCullough, Illinois state's attorney Richard Schmack launched a six-month investigation that found what he calls "clear and convincing evidence" that McCullough is innocent. While the judge Friday vacated McCullough's conviction, he stopped short of declaring him innocent, and a new trial will be held, the Chicago Tribune reports.
McCullough, who lived in the same neighborhood as the kidnapped girl, says he was 40 miles away at an Air Force recruiting center at the time of the kidnapping. It's an alibi that passed a polygraph test in 1957 and made it impossible for him to be the culprit based on the FBI's original timeline for the kidnapping. That timeline was later changed by police, and Schmack says documents—including phone and Air Force records—supporting McCullough's alibi were wrongly not allowed at his trial. A friend of the kidnapped girl picked McCullough out of a photo lineup when the case was reopened. But his was the only non-yearbook photo in the lineup, and she picked a different man out of a photo lineup 50 years earlier. That info wasn't allowed at McCullough's trial either. No physical evidence was ever found to support McCullough's conviction. (Read more wrongful conviction stories.)