SYCAMORE – Almost one year after he was arrested, the man charged in the 1957 killing of a Sycamore girl was given a September trial date.
Jack D. McCullough, 72, of Seattle, is charged with kidnapping and killing 7-year-old Maria Ridulph, who was abducted from her Sycamore neighborhood Dec. 3, 1957. Her remains were found five months later in rural Jo Daviess County.
After a bench trial, he was acquitted in April of charges of rape and indecent liberties with a child in a different case.
During a hearing Thursday at the DeKalb County Courthouse, attorneys agreed to a Sept. 10 jury trial date. Pretrial motions must be filed by July 31. McCullough appeared via closed-circuit TV from the county jail.
Prosecutors also gave McCullough’s attorney, public defender Regina Harris, medical records of McCullough’s obtained from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
McCullough, formerly known as John Tessier, was arrested July 1, 2011, in Seattle. Police have said authorities received new information on the case several years ago that led them to focus on
McCullough, who lived near Ridulph in 1957.
Ridulph’s remains were exhumed from a Sycamore cemetery July 27 as prosecutors searched for DNA evidence; attorneys agreed last week to an order returning her remains to her family because DNA testing is complete.
McCullough was indicted Aug. 19 by a grand jury on charges of murder, kidnapping and abduction of an infant. He has said he has an alibi for the day she disappeared and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Harris made a speedy trial demand in October. When the state chose to try the rape case first, the 120-day speedy trial deadline for the murder case was put on hold. The demand began again once the rape trial was finished, and State’s Attorney Clay Campbell said prosecutors have to work within that deadline.
Harris and Campbell said the September date is realistic and they expect the trial to take at least one week. Campbell said the length may depend on jury selection.
“Any time you have a high-profile case, jury selection generally takes longer,” he said.
Harris said they have yet to determine whether McCullough will opt for a bench trial instead of a jury trial, as he did with the rape case.
“That’s a discussion that has been ongoing and will continue to be ongoing,” she said.
Campbell said it’s hard to say how many witnesses the state may call; many are coming from out of state and their presence takes coordination. But with the speedy trial demand, prosecutors are working to ensure they’re prepared.
“You know, when you have a case like this ... we anticipate answering ‘ready for trial’ on that day,” he said.
Ridulph’s brother, Charles Ridulph, said he’s pleased the trial date is set. It was one year ago last weekend that the family was notified McCullough would be arrested in connection to his sister’s death, he said.
“We’re anticipating that the truth will come out,” Ridulph said.
Campbell said the case has kept prosecutors and police busy and captured the public’s interest.
“There is a certain amount of emotion knowing that, finally, this case will go to trial ...” he said.
McCullough is being held in the DeKalb County Jail on $3 million bond and will next appear in court July 11.