In a trial that took place more than 50 years after the crime was committed, Jack Daniel McCullough was convicted of the 1957 murder of a 7-year-old girl. Now, an Illinois prosecutor claims he has found “clear and convincing evidence” that the former police officer did not commit the brutal murder that garnered the attention of then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and former president Dwight D. Eisenhower.
According to a report by CNN, the conviction is believed to be the nation’s oldest cold case to go to trial.
McCullough, 75, was convicted in 2012 of the murder of Maria Ridulph, who was taken from a street corner in Sycamore, Illinois. Maria Ridulph’s murder went unsolved for half a century.
The second-grade girl was reportedly abducted and dragged into the woods where she was choked with wire as her attacker stabbed her repeatedly until she went limp. Maria Ridolph lay in the spot she was murdered until winter turned to spring.
According to CNN‘s report, the judge hearing the case without a jury found McCullough, then known as John Tessier, guilty after a week-long trial.
— CNN (@CNN) February 20, 2015
On Friday, the state’s attorney for DeKalb County, Richard Schmack, claimed a review of the case led him to conclude that McCullough was incapable of committing the murder because he was some 40 miles away at the time the girl was abducted.
“… the People are ethically compelled and constrained to admit the existence of clear and convincing evidence showing Defendant to have been convicted of an offense which he did not commit.”
McCullough has always maintained his innocence. He claims that the FBI questioned him and cleared him in 1957 because his alibi checked out.
At his sentencing, the wrongly convicted cop pointed to the box of evidence, which included FBI reports and other documents that Judge James Hallock refused to allow into evidence, citing “inadmissible hearsay.”
McCullough begged the judge to reconsider the evidence.
“Look in the box. The truth is in the box.”
Three years later, Schmack examined the contents of that box and spent the next six months reviewing the documents, as well as new evidence that came up after he subpoenaed AT&T phone records. Schmack concluded that McCullough was innocent.
“I truly wish that this crime had really been solved, and her true killer were incarcerated for life. When I began this lengthy review I had expected to find some reliable evidence that the right man had been convicted. No such evidence could be discovered. Compounding the tragedy by convicting the wrong man, and fighting further in the hopes of keeping him jailed, is not the proper legacy for our community, or for the memory of Maria Ridulph.”
— Gossips RTNews (@GossipsRTNews) April 23, 2014
The prosecutor also filed a report with the court, which stated that he felt it was his ethical duty to review the case that was prosecuted by his predecessor, Clay Campbell.
“I know that there are people who will never believe that (McCullough) is not responsible for the crime. Many of these people are my neighbors in Sycamore. But I cannot allow that to sway me from my sworn duty… and to perform faithfully the primary duty of my office, ‘To seek justice, not merely to convict.'”
Campbell has said that solving Maria Ridulph’s murder has been his “life’s work.”
Schmack told CNN a letter was sent to the Ridulph and Tessier families to notify them of his findings.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, McCullough demanded a new trial in 2014.
McCullough is currently being held at the Illinois state penitentiary in Pontiac.
A hearing in the case is scheduled for Tuesday in Sycamore.
(Image via The Associated Press)