SYCAMORE, Ill. (CBS) – The DeKalb County prosecutor said Tuesday that the man accused in the 1957 kidnapping and murder of a 7-year-old girl could be sent back to Illinois within weeks.
Jack Daniel McCullough, 71, was arrested last month in Seattle in connection to the 1957 murder of Maria Ridulph. He’s being held in Seattle on a fugitive charge and is fighting extradition to Illinois.
As CBS 2′s Mike Puccinelli reports, on Tuesday, DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell walked into a news conference to make an announcement many people in Sycamore have been hoping to hear for more than half a century.
“We are confident in this case that Mr. McCullough killed Maria Ridulph,” he said. He plans to prosecute the case himself and expects to have McCullough sent back to Illinois within weeks.
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It was a kidnapping case that was so shocking at the time that President Dwight Eisenhower asked for regular updates, but the case went cold for decades.
Sycamore resident Jackie Tyrrell remembers the crime like it was yesterday and hopes that 7 year old Maria will finally get the justice she deserves.
“If it happens, hallelujah that we finally have peace,” she said of the possibility McCullough could be convicted of Ridulph’s murder.
Ridulph disappeared in December 1957 after accepting a piggyback ride from a young man named Johnny. Her body was found 144 days later near Galena.
John Tessier was questioned about the crime back then, but he claimed he was in Chicago getting tested for the military. He then changed his name and disappeared.
Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Isaiah Vega said that, in 2008, state police got a fresh lead in the case, DNA evidence that ultimately led to Jack McCullough, aka John Tessier, who was arrested earlier this month in the state of Washington, some 54 years after Maria disappeared.
“Clearly, to actually hold Mr. McCullough legally accountable for the murder of a small child, I think will once again remind ourselves that the long arm of the law is awfully long,” Campbell said.
Tyrrell said the case robbed her small town of its innocence.
“Small children in Sycamore not being able to run free,” she said. “To have something like that happen, it’s very scary.”
McCullough, 71, has said he has an ironclad alibi for the murder. He’s being held in Seattle on $3 million bond while he fights extradition to Illinois.