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1957 Sycamore Murder Suspect Opts For Bench Trial On Rape Charge

Jack Daniel McCullough, 71, was charged with kidnapping and murder in the 1957 slaying of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, Ill. (Photo credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office)

Jack Daniel McCullough, 71, was charged with kidnapping and murder in the 1957 slaying of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, Ill. (Photo credit: DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office)

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UPDATED 04/09/12 1:10 p.m.

SYCAMORE, Ill. (CBS) — The former police officer who is also charged with kidnapping and murdering a Sycamore girl in 1957 is set to go on trial for an unrelated rape, and will have his case heard by a judge rather than a jury.

Jack Daniel McCullough will eventually stand trial in the disappearance and death of Maria Ridulph, who vanished from her neighborhood on Dec. 3, 1957, at the age of 7.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports

First, McCullough will be tried on charges that he raped a 14-year-old girl in Sycamore in late 1961 and 1962, at the apartment he then shared with several roommates.

Jury selection in that case had been set to begin on Monday morning, but McCullough opted for a bench trial.

Prosecutors say the accuser is expected to testify. Opening statements are expected to begin Tuesday.

McCullough — then known as John Tessier — was 22 years old when the sex crimes occurred, according to court documents.

Despite his advanced age and the likelihood that virtually any prison term he receives would amount to a life sentence, authorities said they still plan to then prosecute him for the murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph.

“Regardless of the outcome, we continue to prepare for the prosecution of the Maria Ridulph murder,” DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell said.

Maria vanished from her Sycamore neighborhood on Dec. 3, 1957, triggering massive searches that focused national attention on the small farm town but failed to find the missing girl. Her body was discovered nearly five months later in rural Jo Daviess County.

Her killing went unsolved for decades until McCullough — a former Sycamore resident who lived near Ridulph at the time she disappeared — was charged earlier this year with kidnapping and killing the girl.

McCullough, who had worked in Washington state as a police officer, was extradited in late July from his Seattle home to DeKalb County to face those charges.

The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)