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Guest View: With conviction, families can move on

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012 2:39 p.m. CDT

A sweet little girl’s life was stolen from her and her family. A murderer is in jail now for that crime. Two families can try to move on from this and find some meaning and healing in it all.

When I emailed the Illinois State Police with information in 2008, I had no idea whether anything would come of it. I certainly never imagined that a widely publicized trial would occur, or that any of us would be pulled into the limelight to disclose our worst secrets, or that this would cause the family of Maria Ridulph such terrible pain and grief. I never wanted any of that to happen. I wanted to only do what was right and just, and I wanted to keep the promise I made to my mother.

It upset me a great deal to see the hateful comments on news stories about this case from members of the DeKalb County community. I experienced only love and compassion from people from my hometown of Sycamore while this trial went on. I was astonished at the number of people who thanked me and other members of my family while we were there attending the trial.

Some of the hateful comments were directed at DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell, which made me angry.

I am a liberal and a staunch progressive. Clay Campbell and I may differ politically, but I love that man. He is strong, kind and caring. Not once did his political life enter into my assessment of him. I judged him by his actions and his words and his behavior during this long, trying, painful process. He stood firm in his belief the right man was on trial for Maria’s murder, and he never wavered in his determination to bring that man to justice.

I have only good things to say about Clay, and I always will. I feel the same way about [assistant state’s attorneys] Julie Trevarthen and Victor Escarcida. They are all amazing, incredible people and outstanding prosecutors. They will, forever, have a large place in my heart.

Much of my life has been a series of missteps and mistakes. I’ve struggled and fallen and gotten back up again. Like so many people, I have had to face my demons and make peace with the past. To know that I, in a small part, helped bring about the solving of a terrible crime makes me believe in myself once again.

I may have provided police with a tip, but I didn’t do all the hard work that the state’s attorney’s office, Brion Hanley and the rest of the Illinois State Police team, and many others did to bring about justice. They are the ones to be admired and commended for all they did. I will never forget any of them.

I also never will forget my family’s love and support. We found renewed strength, comfort and courage from one another during this time.

Mostly, I will never forget the Ridulph family. I am heartbroken this case and trial opened an old wound and brought about so much sorrow and pain for them. I am grateful at how kindly they received me and my family. If I had the power to ease their suffering, I would. There is nothing I can say that can change that for them, but I do want them to know I will always and forever carry them in my heart and soul. I will always and forever pray that they all will be healed and blessed beyond measure.

When I was young, my younger sister, Mary, and I – and often a friend or two – would go to the theater on State Street on Saturdays and watch the matinee. Then we would walk around the corner to the ice cream store. Occasionally, we would walk to the police station and go in the basement to peruse the wanted posters.

It was a small town, after all, and kids found interesting ways to spend their time. I had been told by my mother that if I prayed really hard, God would grant my requests. So, I would often study the poster with Maria’s picture and pray really hard that God would catch the bad man who had taken her away.

He did. It took a long, long time, but those prayers were answered.

• Jan Tessier’s half-brother, Jack D. McCullough, was convicted Friday in the 1957 abduction and murder of Maria Ridulph, 7, of Sycamore. Tessier grew up in Sycamore and now lives in Louisville, Ky.

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