Authorities Exhume Girl's Body To Check For DNA Evidence

UPDATED 07/27/11 5:49 p.m.

SYCAMORE, Ill. (CBS) — Late Wednesday afternoon, the Seattle man accused of the 1957 kidnapping and murder of a 7-year-old Sycamore girl was returned to Illinois to face the charges against him.

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Jack Daniel McCullough, 71, was brought to the DeKalb County Jail in Sycamore at about 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, after he was extradited from Seattle. He is charged with murder, kidnapping and abduction of an infant in the 1957 slaying of Maria Ridulph.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning at the DeKalb County Courthouse.

Meantime, earlier Wednesday, authorities exhumed Ridulph’s body in an effort to gather more evidence against McCullough.

Maria Ridulph (vintage photo provided by her surviving brother, Charles)

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Nancy Harty reports, an Illinois State Police spokeswoman said state police, Sycamore police and the FBI, along with the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s and Coroner’s offices, were on hand as the body of Maria Ridulph was dug up at Elmwood Cemetery in Sycamore.

Authorities say they hope the body will yield new clues, and investigators may use DNA technology that wasn’t available at the time of her death.

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As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, Maria Ridulph’s remains were dug up in the hopes of finding evidence that the prime suspect, Jack McCullough, 71, killed her back in 1957. McCullough was known as John Tessier back then. He says he’s innocent.

Campbell said he intends to prove that McCullough is a liar.

“What drives me is I’m convinced that Jack McCullough killed Maria Ridulph,” Campbell said.

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Campbell admitted he’s not sure whether exhuming Maria will turn up anything of evidentiary value, but he said he had to try.

“We don’t know what we are going to find, but we would be remiss and irresponsible if we didn’t make some effort,” said DeKalb State’s Attorney Clay Campbell.

“This has been a difficult time and to use those terms is to put it very lightly, indeed,” said Maria’s brother, Charles, who said the family is in complete agreement with how the case is being investigated.

“Although the events are very difficult and very unsettling, we understand the necessity for these things and we are in complete agreement and thankful for the way this case is being handled,” he added.

Maria disappeared from her home in Sycamore in December 1957, and her body was found in the spring of 1958 near Galena.

McCullough, a 71-year-old former resident of the area, is now the suspect in her murder and is set to be returned to Illinois from Washington state to face charges.

CBS affiliate KIRO-TV, Seattle, reported Wednesday morning McCullough had been extradited and was en route to Illinois. They were unsure how he was traveling.

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.

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McCullough later became a police officer in Washington state.