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Crime & Courts

Latham: Ridulph's bones show three deep cut marks

SYCAMORE – A forensic anthropologist testified this morning that three deep cuts to bones of Maria Ridulph's throat and chest area looked to have been made by a knife blade.

As Jack McCullough's murder trial continued Wednesday morning, Krista Latham, a molecular and forensic anthropologist who teaches at the University of Indianapolis, was one of two witnesses who took the stand as the prosecution continued its case. Latham said she observed the exhumation of Maria Ridulph's remains on July 27, 2011, and the autopsy that was performed at the DeKalb County Coroner's Office.

Latham identified various photos taken during the autopsy and commented on the remarkable preservation of Maria's remains. The bones were then taken to Latham's lab in Indianapolis, where greater study of them showed three deep cut marks near the throat and chest area.

These cuts were different from those made with a scalpel or saw during an autopsy, she said, and instead were consistent with being made by a larger blade like a knife.

Latham acknowledged that it is possible the cut marks were made during the original autopsy of Maria's remains, but their location doesn't match what's noted in that report.

The state's first witness of the day, Christopher Diaz, is an inmate at the DeKalb County Jail who wrote prosecutors a letter regarding conversations he overheard in the jail. He testified that between Sept. 1-3, he heard McCullough telling another inmate – who is scheduled to testify as a John Doe witness – details regarding the case and Maria's death, including how he strangled her with a wire.

Diaz, whose testimony was at one point interrupted by a fire alarm going off in the courthouse, said he heard McCullough say the state offered him a deal in the case, "and he specifically said, '(Expletive) that.'"

Diaz also said McCullough called Kirk Swaggerty a snitch, and asked Diaz and the John Doe inmate if they could do anything to Swaggerty, who is currently serving a prison sentence. Swaggerty has told the state he had a conversation with McCullough while in the county jail, and he is scheduled to testify on behalf of the state.

When questioned by the state, Diaz, who was charged in July with aggravated criminal sexual abuse, said prosecutors have not offered him anything in return for his testimony.

During cross-examination, defense attorneys asked Diaz about his criminal history – which includes convictions of attempted mob action and possession of a fraudulent identification card – and his possible gang affiliations.

Prosecutors say McCullough, 72, of Seattle, is 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.

The trial will resume this afternoon at the DeKalb County Courthouse.

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