UPDATED 04/12/12 4:45 p.m.

SYCAMORE, Ill. (CBS) — A former Washington state man accused of murdering a northern Illinois girl more than 50 years ago was acquitted Monday of an unrelated rape case dating back to that era.

A DeKalb County judge found Jack Daniel McCullough, 71, not guilty on all charges in connection with the rape of a 14-year-old Sycamore resident in 1962, at an apartment he then shared with several roommates.

Separately, McCullough is awaiting trial in the disappearance and death of Maria Ridulph, who vanished from her neighborhood on Dec. 3, 1957, at the age of 7.

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At trial, the alleged rape victim testified that McCulloguh picked her up in a convertible, drove her to a house in an unfamiliar part of town and raped her before allowing two others to rape her. She says she never saw the other men’s faces.

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

Now silver-haired, McCullough did not react in court as his bench trial concluded Monday in his favor. But his public defender, Regina Harris, said her client was grateful for the verdict.

“He’s very relieved, he’s very emotional right now,” she told reporters.

DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell praised the victim for testifying at the rape trial. He called her “the most courageous woman that I have ever met.”

Maria’s disappearance 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.

Maria Ridulph’s brother, Charles, expressed disappointment with Monday’s verdict in the unrelated case but said McCullough’s day of judgment is at hand in the upcoming murder trial.

“We’re confident that that will be the end result,” he said.

No trial date has been set. McCullough is being held on $3 million bond in the murder case.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 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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