SYCAMORE, Ill. (STMW) — Charles Ridulph thought his 7-year-old sister, Maria, was outside playing with a friend near their Sycamore home on Dec. 3, 1957.

Then Maria’s friend, Kathy Sigman, came to his door, looking for the little girl.

“Kathy came back and said, ‘I can’t find Maria,’” Ridulph testified Monday as the murder trial opened for the man charged with killing the girl more than five decades ago, the Sun-Times is reporting.

Maria was never seen alive again after her 1957 disappearance, but her body was found five months later in a rural area of Jo Daviess County.

Her disappearance and death went unsolved until former neighbor Jack Daniel McCullough was arrested last year.

McCullough — who at the time of his arrest was a former police officer in Washington state — in 1957 lived a few blocks away from the Ridulph family.

McCullough is accused of kidnapping and killing the little girl as she played near her home in the rural DeKalb County town.

Prosecutors disclosed Monday for the first time that forensic exams showed Maria died after being stabbed at least three times in the throat and chest.

“This ordinary night would end in horror,” DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell said as the trial opened. “It would end with this defendant dumping her body in the cold, dark woods like a piece of garbage.”

McCullough, who in 1957 was named John Tessier, originally was questioned about the killing, but had an alibi, authorities said.

But that alibi crumbled when Illinois State Police reopened an investigation in 2010 and began questioning witnesses, authorities have said.

Campbell said a key witness in the trial will be Maria’s friend, who will testify she and Maria were approached by a man as they played outside.

Kathy Sigman Chapman will testify that she left Maria with the man while she ran home to get mittens.

When she returned, Maria and the man who had introduced himself as “Johnny,” were gone, Campbell said.

Questioned in 2010, Sigman Chapman identified a picture of McCullough as the man she last saw with Maria, Campbell said.

“The defendant thought he could get away with it,” Campbell said of the killing. “What he couldn’t count on was that Kathy Sigman could never forget his face.”

McCullough’s court-appointed attorneys denied he had anything to do with the distant abduction and killing.

The only evidence tying him to the killing are purported statements he made to jailhouse informants after his arrest, Public Defender Thomas McCulloch said.

“Jack McCullough did not commit this murder,” he said. “The reality is it has not been solved by charging Jack McCullough.”

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

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