Sycamore, IL — Former police officer Jack Daniel McCullough, 71, is being held in Seattle on $3 million bail after investigators charged that, in 1957, he abducted and murdered a 7-year-old girl. Maria Ridulph disappeared Dec. 3, 1957, while playing with her friend, Kathy Chapman. Chapman, who was 8 at the time, reportedly told investigators at the time that she and Maria were under a corner streetlight when a young man she knew as “Johnny” offered them a piggyback ride. At the time, McCullough went by the name “John Tessier.”
Chapman, now 61, said that she ran home to get mittens and that when she returned, Maria and the man were gone. It was months later in April 1958 that two people hunting for mushrooms found her remains.
According to investigators, police suspected McCullough – who lived less than two blocks from the Ridulphs and who fit the description of the man said to have approached the girls. But McCullough seemed to have an alibi. He had claimed he took the train from Rockford to Chicago the day of the abduction for a military physical. Chapman reportedly said that police never showed her a photo of McCullough in the days and months after Maria was kidnapped.
The search for Maria grew to involve more than 1,000 law enforcement officers and many other community members, ultimately catching the attention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who requested daily updates. No other leads materialized and the case of the missing girl in the small town of Sycamore eventually went cold.
Perhaps because Sycamore is a small town, the case was not forgotten. According to court documents, investigators from the Sycamore Police Department reinterviewed a woman last year who had dated McCullough in 1957. During the interview they asked her to search through some personal items. While searching, she found an unused train ticket from Rockford to Chicago given to her by McCullough and dated the day the girl went missing. This discovery re-energized the case against McCullough.
Chapman said investigators came to her with a photo of a teenage McCullough. She identified him as the “Johnny” who approached her and Maria the night her friend vanished. Investigators also determined a collect phone call McCullough was supposed to have made to his then-girlfriend from Chicago actually came from his Sycamore home the day Maria vanished — and he gave a ride to a relative when he should have been on the train.
“Once his alibi crumbled, we found about a dozen other facts that helped us build our case,” said Sycamore Police Chief Donald Thomas.
McCullough has been charged with the abduction and murder of Maria Ridulph. He has reportedly been taken to a regional trauma center for an unreported condition. His next hearing has been rescheduled as a result.
In a recent newspaper interview, McCullough recalled that Maria lived a few blocks from his family’s home in Sycamore and had big brown eyes.
“A little doll,” McCullough said of the girl. “She was adorable.”
But he still denies harming her. Recanting his previous alibi, he now maintains that he simply did not need to take the train to the military base in Rockford. The files for base physicals during that time that he claimed would exonerate him were recently discovered to have been destroyed in a fire.
As with all cases of this nature, I cannot imagine the pain, confusion, and sadness the young girl experienced from the time of her abduction to the time of her death. Whoever is responsible deserves a slice of hell in this world and the next.
We’ll have to wait to see if prosecutors can establish that it was Jack Daniel McCullough.Tags: Child Murder, Cold Case, Jack Daniel McCullough, Kidnapping, Maria Ridulph