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Olson: Justice delayed no longer

Published: Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

Jack McCullough escaped the consequences of the 1957 killing of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph for more than 50 years.

Unless his conviction is overturned, he’ll probably die in prison.

It’s a travesty that it took almost 57 years before McCullough was found guilty of killing a Sycamore girl and dumping her body in the woods in Jo Daviess County. That it happened at all is unspeakable.

But at least McCullough, 72, lived long enough to be arrested, tried and on Friday, convicted by Kane County Associate Judge James Hallock. Even though he’d moved across the country to Seattle and changed his name, justice finally caught up with him.

Let’s hope he makes it to the Nov. 30 sentencing hearing, as well. Let him hear what this act did to those left behind. 

Then, let him go to jail and live as long as his heart can handle it.

• • •

Situations like this: Are the reason I don’t support the death penalty. To commit a heinous crime, spend life in prison thinking about it and knowing you never will walk free again – that’s a fate worse than death.

• • •
Tough coverage:
In the past week, we devoted a lot of prime real estate in the newspaper and online at Daily-Chronicle.com to coverage of the McCullough trial.

Obviously, the story was sensational and gut-wrenching. Testimony included stories of a confession by McCullough’s mother weeks before her death, jailhouse conversations and recollections of a little girl whose life ended tragically.

We tried to keep you updated with all the tools we could bring to bear: With live updates on Twitter @Daily_Chronicle, midday updated stories and end-of-day video recaps at Daily-Chronicle.com and fine storytelling by reporters Caitlin Mullen and Jeff Engelhardt.

It was a fascinating story to cover and follow. But when I was done thinking, talking and reading about the case for the day, I mostly just wanted to go home, hug my kids and make sure that I told them I loved them before leaving for work the next day.

My oldest daughter is 7. She’s smart, beautiful and innocent, just the way I’m sure Maria was. 

My heart goes out to the Ridulph family. I know they’ve said this won’t bring closure or ease the pain they’ve endured, the depth of which I can’t imagine.

More to the point, I’m scared to imagine it.

As for kids, I say hug ’em if you got ’em.

• • •
RAMP-ing up:
Those of us who can walk take a lot for granted. Stairs, curbs and uneven terrain are no problem. 

Next weekend, you can get a taste of what it’s like for people who use a wheelchair and help a good cause.

The RAMP Center for Independent Living, a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities, will hold its 12th annual Wheel-A-Thon beginning at 9 a.m. Sept. 22. Participants raise money by asking others to sponsor them, and RAMP uses the proceeds to help local people with disabilities realize their full potential and promote an accessible society.

RAMP provides the wheelchairs for the Wheel-A-Thon, and participants roll through a 2-mile route from downtown DeKalb to NIU.

“It’s both a fundraiser for the services we provide and kind of an awareness event,” said Heather Foulker, DeKalb County manager for RAMP.

There’s definitely a need for help around DeKalb County.

“Now we have at least two, maybe more, people who we’re trying to assist with getting ramps onto their home,” Foulker said.

Although there is assistance available for those who live within the DeKalb city limits, those living elsewhere have it a little tougher. 

Which is why the RAMP organization was among a group that recently helped a Cortland man make his home accessible.

The man, who uses a wheelchair, had to negotiate concrete steps to get into his home. The estimated cost to build a wheelchair ramp was about $5,000.

He contacted RAMP about his problem in March. Recently, Foulker mentioned the man’s predicament to Jeff Rhoades, a classmate of hers from the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce’s DeKalb Leadership Academy.

Rhoades, a member of the Christ Community Church in DeKalb, thought there was something he could do to help.

“We have a really large outreach program, and I’ve traveled to Kentucky to build ramps for people, they travel to Haiti and Brazil,” Rhoades said. “Our church does it in other countries and other states. I don’t know why we couldn’t do it locally.”

Turned out there was no reason. Elder Care Services of DeKalb County agreed to donate $1,000 because the man was older than 60. Lowe’s agreed to donate some of the materials.

Rhoades and five other members of Christ Community, Cory Webster, John Asher, Eric Pheissing, Tom Scheele and Mike Williams, donated their time and skill to build the 35-foot, L-shaped ramp.

It took the six men most of the weekend to build it. When it was finished Sunday afternoon, it was a great feeling, Rhoades said.

“There’s nothing like seeing the joy on a guy’s face who was never really been able to get out of his house, and now he’s able to come down a ramp,” Rhoades said.

• • •

I don’t get it: In light of the ongoing protests, I felt I had to watch “The Innocence of Muslims” on YouTube. I wanted to understand what was causing all this rioting in majority-Muslim countries such as Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

About three minutes of the 5-minute, 22-second clip was all I could stand. It’s amateurish in the extreme, and the actors’ voices clearly were overdubbed.

The whole time, I just thought: “This? They’re rioting over this?”

I understand depictions of Muhammad are forbidden under Islamic law.  And although I’m not a Muslim, I’d never trash anybody’s religion – only its perversion by fanatics and hucksters, of which every religion has its share.

Still, it boggles my mind that some idiot could cause all this trouble with a slapdash farce of a film shot in front of a lousy green screen. It seems like an excuse for angry, disenfranchised people to riot in the streets.

That’s just another way that our societies don’t understand each other.

Perhaps people in Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere think the American public really watches this nonsense. Maybe they imagine the film is playing at every neighborhood Cineplex in the theater next to “Finding Nemo 3D.”

If they could imagine the neighborhood Cineplex at all, that is.

They clearly don’t understand our values, as the calls by the Egyptian president that we prosecute the filmmakers. That’s not how America works, pal.

Many of us – myself included – don’t understand the role of religion in their societies, the way that facts are presented and manipulated by media and religious leaders there and what life is really like for them.

• • •

Face it: When people are secure in their homes, happy with their lives and working for a living, they don’t have a lot of free time to riot over some stupid movie.

It leads me to believe that allowing people to share in economic prosperity and  enjoy better living conditions could be just as effective at setting people free as drone attacks and military installations.

• Eric Olson is editor of the Daily Chronicle. Call him at 815-756-4841 ext. 257, email him at eolson@shawmedia.com, and follow him on Twitter @DDC_Editor.

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