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Crime & Courts

Friend recalls moments before Ridulph's disappearance

SYCAMORE – A childhood friend of Maria Ridulph recalled the night of her disappearance during the second day of Jack McCullough's trial Tuesday.

Kathy Sigman-Chapman said on Dec. 3, 1957, a man who introduced himself as Johnny approached her and Ridulph as they were playing outside at the corner of Archie Place and Center Cross Street. The man asked if the girls liked dolls, then offered them a piggy back ride.

Sigman said Johnny took Ridulph on a piggy back ride down the street, but both came right back to the corner. Ridulph then ran about three doors down to her home to get a doll. Sigman waited on the corner with Johnny, where she said she observed him but could not recall any conversation.

When Ridulph came back with the doll, Sigman went home, which was also nearby on Archie, to get mittens. By the time she came back to corner, Ridulph and Johnny were gone. She said she looked outside for Ridulph for a while before telling her parents what happened.

Prosecutors say McCullough, 72, of Seattle, is "Johnny," the man responsible for the disappearance and death of 7-year-old Maria, who was abducted from her Sycamore neighborhood. McCullough, formerly known as John Tessier, was arrested in July 2011 in Seattle and is in the DeKalb County Jail.

Police have said they received new information on the case several years ago that led them to focus on McCullough, who lived near Ridulph in 1957. McCullough’s attorneys have said he was in Chicago and Rockford the day Maria disappeared.

McCullough sat impassively during Sigman's testimony, rarely looking at her and occasionally speaking to his lawyers.

Sigman, 62, of St. Charles, said the following months were filled with daily contact with the police and FBI, she said, as she saw "thousands" of photographs and "probably 100" lineups in an effort to identify Johnny.

It was not until she was approached by Illinois State Police almost 53 years later, on Sept. 9, 2010, that Sigman was able to identify a picture of McCullough as the man she saw that day.

Defense attorneys questioned Sigman about what she could remember of "Johnny" from that night, asking about boots, belts and other details Sigman said she could not recall.

The defense also noted differences in the six photos state police presented her, with all but the one she chose as having a "yearbook" pose and quality to it.

Prosecutors noted the pictures all were black and white and showed clean-cut men of similar age. They also asked her what she focused on when she met the man on Dec. 3 and she stressed she was focused on his face, not his boots or belt.

Katheran Caulfield, the half-sister of McCullough, also took the stand Tuesday and said her mother told authorities the day after Ridulph's disappearance that McCullough had been at home in Sycamore on Dec. 3.

Caulfield, 67 and now living in Minnesota, had said she did not see McCullough on Dec. 3, and when defense attorneys asked if she spoke up to authorities when her mother said he had been home, Caulfield said she had not.

The prosecution is expected to continue its case with its next witness at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Video: Day 1 recap of Jack McCullough trialWitness: Memories strong in McCullough case
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