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Accused Killer In 1957 Child Murder Held On $3M Bail

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Jack Daniel McCullough, accused in the 1957 murder of Sycamore girl Maria Ridulph. (Sycamore Police Dept.)

Jack Daniel McCullough, accused in the 1957 murder of Sycamore girl Maria Ridulph. (Sycamore Police Dept.)

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UPDATED 07/05/11 8:48 a.m.

SEATTLE (CBS) – An attorney for a Seattle man insists his client is not the one who killed a 7-year-old girl from Sycamore in 1957.

As CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman reports, Jack Daniel McCullough, 71, made his first court appearance Monday in the murder of Maria Ridulph, who was abducted while playing with a friend near her home in the DeKalb County town.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports

King County, Wash. prosecutor Bridgette Maryman says McCullough evaded prosecution for decades and asked the judge to honor Illinois’ warrant for his arrest. Bail was set at $3 million.

Attorney Robert Jourdan represented McCullough at the hearing, although it’s unclear whether he has hired a lawyer. He says the defendant doesn’t acknowledge that he is who the state alleges he is.

But read witness statements filed in the case, and it seems McCullough has a history of sexual and emotional abuse claims against him. Pleading guilty to a lesser charge on one even cost him a police job after he left Sycamore.

In Seattle, McCullough was called “a wonderful, loving, kind person” outside court. But the case in which he was accused shook small-town U.S.A.

“It’s never gone away,” said William Hindenburg, grandson of Bill Hindenburg, the police chief of Sycamore at the time of the murder.

Maria disappeared on Dec. 3, 1957.

The girl’s playmate, Kathy Chapman, now 61 and living in St. Charles, Ill., has said she and Maria were at a street corner when a teenage boy she knew as “Johnny” offered them a piggyback ride. Chapman said she ran home to get mittens and returned to find Maria and the boy gone.

Maria’s remains were found months later. They were discovered in April 1958 in Jo Daviess County, about 120 miles away in the northwest corner of Illinois.

“In those days, it seemed like there should never have been a monster on the loose,” Hindenburg said.

But there was, and Hindenburg’s grandfather worked to find him. McCullough was a suspect, but he had an alibi.

The case went cold, but Hindenburg said there wasn’t a day that went by when the late police chief didn’t think about it.

“I found out later, when I was old enough to understand, how much of a burden it was on Grandpa Bill,” Hindenburg said, “and yet, he never got rid of it as a burden he could never set down.”

Hindenburg says his grandfather wanted relief and closure for the family of a little girl who is now commemorated on a plaque in Sycamore. With someone in custody, that could come now.

Playmate Chapman has said police never showed her a photo of McCullough after Maria went missing until last September. She said she identified a photo of a teenage McCullough as the “Johnny” who approached her and Maria the night her friend vanished.

McCullough’s next court date is set for Wednesday.

The DeKalb County state’s attorney plans to extradite McCullough to Illinois.

According to witness statements filed in the case, McCullough has a history of sexual and emotional abuse claims against him. As an officer with the Milton, Wash., police in the early 1980s, he was accused of sexually molesting a teen runaway. He eventually pleaded guilty to unlawful communication and was fired.

McCullough lived less than two blocks from the Ridulphs and went by the name John Tessier at the time of Maria’s disappearance. Then 18, his alibi was that he took the train from Rockford to Chicago the day of the abduction. McCullough joined the military.

But his alibi began to fall apart last year after investigators re-interviewed a woman who dated him in 1957, the Seattle Times reported, citing court documents. She searched through personal items and found an unused train ticket from Rockford to Chicago dated the day the girl went missing.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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