Sycamore, IL — Seventy-three-year-old Jack McCullough has been sentenced to life in prison for the 1957 slaying of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph.
The case had gone unsolved for 55 years, but McCullough was finally arrested in July 2011 and found guilty in September of this year.
Ridulph’s remains were found 120 miles from her home in Sycamore, Illinois, in 1958, but the case had gone cold until 2010, when a former girlfriend of McCullough came forward and cast doubt on his alibi.
McCullough was sentenced Monday in Sycamore, in DeKalb County.
The trial will most likely be watched by members of the Ridulph and McCullough families. It will also likely be watched by 63-year-old Kathy Chapman, who was playing with Maria Ridulph on the last day she was alive.
Relatives of the victim typically make a statement during the sentencing hearing, and it is expected that if members of either the McCullough or Ridulph family speak, they will agree that McCullough deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.
After McCullough was convicted in September, his half-sister Janet Tessier said, “He is as evil as prosecutors painted — and some.”
Prosecutors argued that McCullough — who went by John Tessier in 1957 — approached Ridulph and Chapman in front of the former’s home on December 3. The then 17-year-old played with the girls briefly until Chapman went home to get her mittens. McCullough then dragged Ridulph into an alley, choked her with a wire, and stabbed her in the throat and chest. Prosecutors said he then loaded her body into his car and dumped her body in a wooded area 100 miles away.
McCullough was one of over 100 people who were suspected in the girl’s disappearance, but appeared to have an airtight alibi when he told investigators he had been traveling to Chicago for a medical exam before joining the Air Force.
He eventually settled in Seattle and became a police officer.
When a new investigation was launched, authorities showed Chapman an old photograph of McCullough, whom she identified as “Johnny.”
After his conviction, McCullough addressed Sycamore residents in a letter and said the documents that supported his alibi were barred from the trial.
“If all parties had read the documents,” McCullough wrote, “it should have caused a reasonable person to conclude that I could not have been ‘Johnny,’ because at the exact time of the kidnapping, I was in Rockford, 40 miles away.”