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Verdict in McCullough rape trial expected Thursday

Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 1:45 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012 12:18 a.m. CDT

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SYCAMORE – After the prosecution and defense rested their cases Wednesday, Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert said she would have a verdict in Jack D. McCullough's rape trial Thursday morning.

Attorneys for both sides gave closing arguments in just over 90 minutes Wednesday afternoon at the DeKalb County Courthouse.

Prosecutor Victor Escarcida with the DeKalb County State's Attorney's Office said McCullough took advantage of his teenage sister, Jeanne Tessier, the accuser in the rape case, while he held a position of authority and trust.

"And on that day, he took away her dignity and treated her like a piece of garbage," Escarcida said.

Public Defender Regina Harris, representing McCullough, argued that no one can corroborate Tessier's story and there is no physical evidence. Harris said Tessier didn't tell police about what she said happened until more than 47 years later.

State's Attorney Clay Campbell said there's no more credible individual than Tessier, who he described as an honest, educated person who has worked as a chaplain in a children's hospital.

McCullough, 72, is charged with one count of rape and four counts of indecent liberties with a child. He also faces separate charges in the 1957 kidnapping and killing of 7-year-old Sycamore girl Maria Ridulph; those charges are not part of this trial.

Tessier, who was 14 at the time the alleged rape, is McCullough’s half-sister. The Daily Chronicle typically does not name people who say they were raped, but Tessier has given permission to have her name used.

On Tuesday, Tessier described a warm day in 1962 when McCullough pulled up outside the family's 227 Center Cross St. home in a red and white convertible, took her to 751 Carlson St., led her to a dark room within the house and raped her on a cot on the floor.

Before resting their case Wednesday morning, prosecutors called Illinois State Police investigator Brion Hanley to testify. He said he spoke with Tessier, who now lives in Kentucky, in November 2009 on an unrelated matter when she disclosed that McCullough had sexually assaulted her in 1962.

When questioned by McCullough's attorney, Public Defender Regina Harris, Hanley said when Tessier shared this information, he had contacted her – not the other way around – and she did not provide names of those she said raped her after her brother did. Had she provided their names, Hanley acknowledged, he would have investigated that as well.

Prosecutor Julie Trevarthen showed Hanley a copy of a news article from October 1962 that described Richard Floyd Tucker being accidentally shot by McCullough during target practice at a location on Whipple Road. The article noted that according to a statement from McCullough – then known as John Tessier – he resided at 751 Carlson St., where Tucker also lived and where Jeanne Tessier said the rape occurred.

Tucker was the first witness called by the defense. Now 72, he had trouble recalling how long he lived at the Carlson Street house but told Harris that McCullough, whom he knew through school, never lived there. When questioned by State's Attorney Clay Campbell, Tucker said he did not tell Sycamore detectives in September 2011 that another man who lived at the Carlson Street house drove a red Chevy convertible.

Tucker told Harris he didn't know anyone who drove a red convertible. Tucker acknowledged that he told detectives McCullough did not live at the 751 Carlson St. house and wasn't aware of any sexual assault. He said he and McCullough hadn't spoken since the early 1960s, when Tucker was shot by McCullough.

When Harris asked Tucker why he was in the courtroom, he said, "I have no idea. I do not know."

Were you ever such good friends with McCullough, Harris asked, that if you knew he had sexually assaulted his sister in your home you'd try to protect him?

"No, I would not," Tucker answered.

Attorney Robert Carlson with the public defender’s office said during opening arguments Tuesday that McCullough never owned or had access to a convertible. Tessier testified McCullough told her the car was a friend’s.

Before calling her first witness Wednesday, Harris made a motion for directed finding, arguing that the state had not met its burden of proof. Stuckert denied the motion.

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