SYCAMORE – Debbie Moore had choice words to describe Jack D. McCullough for the crimes he has now been found guilty of committing.
Shortly after Kane County Associate Judge James Hallock delivered his guilty verdict Friday at the DeKalb County Courthouse, Moore expressed her happiness for the delayed justice coming to the 72-year-old McCullough.
“He has been guilty the whole time,” Moore said. “I hope he gets what he deserves in jail.”
Moore clearly remembered Dec. 3, 1957, when 7-year-old Maria Ridulph disappeared. She said it was a trying time for her as a child because she could not comprehend the citywide search and the instant change from playing outdoors without a care to locking the front door every day and night.
McCullough, formerly known as John Tessier, was found guilty of the kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old Ridulph in 1957. He is expected to be sentenced Nov. 30. McCullough’s attorneys have said they will appeal the decision.
Moore was a high school friend of key witness Kathy Chapman, who was the last to see Ridulph. Moore said all the children in the city lost a piece of their innocence and freedom because of McCullough, and it is about time he lost his.
“We’ll never know exactly what happened to Maria,” Moore said. “But we have let a pedophile loose for too long. Who knows what else may have happened.”
James Tucker was a Boy Scout who helped in the search effort the weekend Ridulph disappeared. He said the whole situation has been sad, in part because Ridulph’s disappearance affected not only Sycamore but also the surrounding communities.
Kidnappings and abductions were not supposed to happen in their community, said Tucker, who later worked for the company that created a memorial to Maria that is displayed on the second floor of the Sycamore City Center.
“We always thought we were immune,” he said.
Jim Niewold, who was 13 years old at the time of Ridulph’s disappearance, was just glad to see this chapter of Sycamore history come to a close. He said he never thought there would be any closure to the abduction that took place across the street from his childhood home.
“Obviously he is the correct suspect, and he finally got what he deserves,” Niewold said. “I’m just glad it’s over with.”
Sycamore Mayor Ken Mundy and his wife also released a statement after the verdict expressing relief that Ridulph can now rest in peace.
“We live in a country where those who seek to harm others, especially children, can and will be brought to justice, first here in this world and then later before God,” Mundy said in the release. “No victim has worked harder to catch and convict her assailant and no family and community deserves finality more than Maria, the Ridulph and Tessier families, and the Sycamore community.”
Although the conclusion of McCullough’s trial was a reminder of the past for many, Paul Schwartz said it was an interesting and exciting week to observe.
Schwartz, who owns PJ’s Courthouse Tavern, said attorneys, court reporters and family members of those involved in the case would come to his establishment after each trial day, and it was always interesting to hear the different updates and perspectives.
He had no doubt Hallock came to the right decision.
“It was like I had a front-row seat,” Schwartz said. “There was definitely a lot of interest and excitement. ... I’m happy with the outcome.”