America's oldest cold case has been opened up once again — with 75-year-old Jack McCullough
(pictured) getting a new trial to clear his name in the 1957 murder of Maria Ridulph
! A judge in DeKalb County, Ill., has ordered a new trial for McCullough. The National ENQUIRER
first revealed in 2011 how an old train ticket had inspired prosecutors to arrest the retired cop for the death of the 7-year-old girl.
But there's a new twist in the child murder that once shook the nation! McCullough was arrested because the unused train ticket destroyed the former cop's alibi that he had been in Rockford, Ill., at the time of Maria's murder in the small town of Sycamore. Prosecutors, however, now say they've found evidence McCullough made a collect call from Rockford at the time Maria disappeared.
The shocking murder riveted America. Maria's tragic death even caught the attention of President Eisenhower and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Then, more than 50 years after Maria's murder, police reinvestigating the baffling cold case interviewed a woman who had dated McCullough in 1957.
McCullough had been a suspect early in the case. Detectives asked his old girlfriend to look for pictures and other items from their time together. Digging deep, she came up with an unused and unstamped train ticket from Rockford, Ill., to Chicago — shaking the alibi that had allowed McCullough to avoid arrest for decades!
On July 1 2011, prosecutors in DeKalb County, Ill., charged McCullough, then 71, with murdering Maria. The girl had last been seen playing with her friend Kathy Chapman near her home in Sycamore, 50 miles west of Chicago. Maria's disappearance sparked a search involving more than 1,000 lawmen and citizens.
But her fate wasn't discovered until mushroom hunters came across her remains five months later in a wooded area 100 miles from her hometown. Kathy still remembered how she and Maria were at a street corner when a young man she knew as "Johnny" offered them a piggyback ride. Kathy said she ran home to get mittens and returned to find both Maria and the man gone.
At the time, authorities questioned McCullough — then named John Tessier — but he had a seemingly airtight alibi that he was on a train when Maria vanished. "He was a very good suspect in the beginning," said Sycamore Police Chief Donald Thomas. "He lived about a block and a half away from the victim, he fit the description and his clothes matched, but he had an alibi that he was someplace else."
"When his alibi crumbled," added the chief, "we found about a dozen other facts that helped us build our case." The ticket and other newly unearthed evidence all seem to show he never made the train trip, said officials.
Amazingly, after Tessier changed his name to McCullough, he became a police officer in Washington State — but was fired in the early 1980s after being accused of sexually molesting a teen runaway! He eventually pleaded guilty to unlawful communication.
He was found guilty of the kidnapping and murder of Maria on September 14, 2012 — but now that verdict is in jeopardy. This latest turn in the case is also a continuing tragedy for the small town of Sycamore.
At the time of McCullough's trial, DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell said: "This crime has haunted Sycamore for half a century. We hope that the family of Maria Ridulph and this community can find some solace and closure with this arrest." But that closure hasn't happened yet!