Sentenced to Life in Prison for 55-Year-Old Murder

Saturday, December 15, 2012
Maria Ridulph

A man in his seventies has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a young girl 55 years ago.


Jack McCullough, 73, was convicted of kidnapping and murdering seven-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, Illinois. She went missing on December 3, 1957, and her body was found in a field five months later. The long unsolved crime haunted the small town, where residents compared the impact of Ridulph’s death to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.


Prosecutors argued that McCullough, then 17 and known as John Tessier, befriended Maria before later choking her with a wire and stabbing her.


After serving in the military, McCullough moved to Seattle and became a police officer. However his police career ended when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor related to the sexual abuse of teenage runaway. McCullough has maintained his innocence in the Maria Ridulph case.


His public defender, Tom McCulloch, pointed out that no forensic evidence linked his client to the homicide, and that the conviction was largely based on witness testimony about events that took place six decades ago. McCulloch intends to file an appeal.


If the conviction stands, McCullough could be eligible for parole in 20 years, at age 93.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Former Neighbor Guilty Of Killing Girl, 7, In 1957 (by Clifford Ward, Chicago Tribune)

55 Years After Girl’s Death, Her Killer Gets a Life Term (by Erica Goode, New York Times)

Jack McCullough Sentenced To Life For 1957 Murder Of 7-Year-Old (by Dan Rozek, Chicago Sun-Times)


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