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Suspect In 1957 Sycamore Murder Charged As Fugitive

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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 07/06/11 – 5:52 a.m.

SEATTLE (CBS) — A Seattle man arrested in the 1957 killing of a girl in Sycamore has been charged with being a fugitive, as authorities attempt to have him returned to Illinois to face murder charges.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports

Jack Daniel McCullough, 71, declined to appear in court for his arraignment, but a lawyer entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf, and the judge kept his bail at $3 million. Another hearing was set for July 20.

Outside his arraignment, a woman who said she was McCullough’s daughter told reporters, “I couldn’t have picked a better father.”

McCullough is accused in the 1957 abduction-slaying of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in the small town of Sycamore, about 50 miles west of Chicago. The case drew sensational attention across the country at the time, with then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover taking a personal interest and receiving daily updates from investigators.

Illinois State Police say it was a new lead in 2008 that got them to reopen the girl’s kidnapping and murder more than 50 years ago.

They are saying little about the break for fear of jeopardizing the case, but the Chicago Tribune reports authorities are planning to hold a news conference early next week.

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.

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 was living under the name John Tessier at the time. Then 18, his alibi was that he took the train from Rockford to Chicago the day of the abduction. McCullough joined the military.

But a former girlfriend of McCullough recently came across an unused train ticket hidden behind a framed photograph he gave her. That was when police zeroed in on him again as Maria’s possible killer.

According to witness statements filed in the case, McCullough has a history of sexual and emotional abuse claims against him since Maria’s disappearance. 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 is now being held on $3 million bond. The DeKalb County state’s attorney plans to extradite McCullough to Illinois.

(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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