Evidence has now emerged that Jack Daniel McCullough, the 76-year-old grandfather who was convicted in the cold case child murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph, is innocent. McCullough’s legal team has filed a motion for his immediate release, but DeKalb County Judge William Brady says that the process “can’t be rushed” and on Friday refused to order McCullough’s release until he goes through a three-stage legal process. Both the prosecution and defense agree that McCullough is innocent and that his conviction was unjust, according to his newly appointed legal team.
As reported by Yahoo News, Janey O’Connor, McCullough’s stepdaughter, wrote an email referencing the evidence proving his innocence and pleading for his release.
“Now the prosecution, defense and the judge have all the information proving my Dad’s innocence. It is time to let my Jack come home to my mother and family.”
The victim’s brother, Charles Ridulph, 70, has criticized State Attorney William Schmack’s report findings that conclude that McCullough could not have committed the crime and has filed a motion to have a special prosecutor appointed. Schmack contends that the findings of his report are based on a review of old files in addition to new evidence that has been discovered.
“Your honor, I’ve been in prison locked up now for almost five years. I’m innocent, and I can prove I’m... https://t.co/4WdTPh9cvV— PrisonReformMovement (@PrisonReformMvt) March 30, 2016
The filing petitioning McCullough’s release was made on Thursday and contained points such as the fact that McCullough was identified 55 years later by the victim’s friend from six photographs presented to her of six different men. The report asserts that McCullough’s photograph stood out among the others because all of the men in the photographs, except him, were wearing a suitcoat.
Along with this, phone records have come to light that support McCullough’s alibi that he was in Rockford at the time of the kidnapping. The records show that he placed a phone call from a payphone in that town just a few minutes after Ridulph was abducted in Sycamore. Sycamore is 35 miles away from Rockford.
Judge Brady says that he is anguished about the entire situation.
“I go to bed at night, most recently, thinking about this case and what my role is. It is not lost on me, the importance of this case, to this community.”
Defense attorney Gabriel Fuentes stated that another day or week is just another aggravation of a grave injustice.
According to CNN, McCullough is a military veteran and former police officer. He was found guilty in 2012 after a weeklong trial.
State Attorney Schmack said in court documents summarizing his review findings of the case that there was “clear and convincing evidence” that McCullough was wrongly convicted.
“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.”
He further added his dismay over the continuing injustice involved in the case.
“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.”
A portion of Schmack’s review involved 4,500 pages of police and FBI documents that were originally rejected by the trial judge on the basis that they were inadmissible hearsay. It took the prosecutor six months to comb through all of it. He also subpoenaed the AT&T phone records which supported McCullough’s alibi.
Maria Ridulph was kidnapped in Sycamore, Pennsylvania, on December 3, 1957 while outside playing in the snow with a friend. Her body was found five months later, and it was determined that she had been choked and stabbed to death. McCullough became a person of interest after his sister called a tip line and said that her mother had stated on her deathbed that she believed that he had committed the crime. The case made national headlines in the 1950’s. At the time of McCullough’s conviction, the case was considered to be the oldest cold case to go to trial. McCullough has been held at the Illinois state penitentiary in Pontiac since his conviction.
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