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SYCAMORE, Ill. (CBS) – The man charged with kidnapping and killing 7-year-old Maria Ridulph more than 50 years ago made his first appearance in an Illinois courtroom on Thursday, a day after he was extradited from Seattle.
Jack McCullough, 71, appeared by video feed from the DeKalb County Jail for a brief hearing to face murder, kidnapping and abduction charges. He was appointed a public defender after telling the court he could not pay for a defense attorney.
McCullough is accused of kinapping and murdering Maria Ridulph in 1957. He was returned to Illinois from Seattle Wednesday afternoon after waiving extradition last week.
After Thursday’s hearing, DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell said, “The feeling I had today seeing him on the TV screen was one of great satisfaction, because, obviously, it’s the state’s position that he abducted and murdered Maria Ridulph.”
Maria’s body was exhumed on Wednesday, in the hopes of finding DNA or other scientific evidence that could help determine exactly how she died.
When she vanished, Maria had just accepted a piggyback ride from a young man named Johnny; back then, McCullough used the name John Tessier.
McCullough has said he has an ironclad alibi for the murder, that he was headed to Chicago to undergo medical exams before joining the military. He used the same alibi when he was questioned about the murder at the time, then disappeared.
But one of McCullough’s former girlfriends recently found an unused train ticket hidden behind a photograph he had given her, which authorities have said shatters the alibi.
McCullough later became a police officer in Washington state. At the time of his arrest, he was living in a retirement community in Seattle and working as a night watchman.