On Sept. 14, Jack McCullough was found guilty of the kidnapping and murder of my sister, Maria. Maria was only seven years old when she and her friend Kathy, were playing near our home. On Dec. 3, 1957, almost 55 years ago, Maria was taken from us, and after the verdict, I was asked how I felt.
Today, in front of the Sycamore fire and police departments stands a plaque that reads, “This is in memory of Maria Elizabeth Ridulph who on Dec. 3, 1957, was kidnapped while playing near her home. She was found murdered in the spring of 1958. This is also in honor of the great people in our community that reached out with their love and compassion.”
As I look back over the events of the past 14 months, I again wish to thank the great people in our community who reached out with their love and compassion. In fact, not only to those in our community, but also to the many family members, friends and strangers throughout the country who have supported us throughout this difficult time.
McCullough finally has been brought to justice, and as we await his sentencing we are thankful that this part of our lives is behind us. We also are thankful that with this conviction comes hope to so many others who still seek justice in cases that may have seemed forgotten.
With the successful arrest, prosecution and conviction of the person responsible for taking my sister from us over a half-century ago, I know that elsewhere, old, sometimes forgotten crimes will receive new looks. And for that, I am thankful.
In December of 1957, my family received the love and compassion of an entire community, and the same has held true today. I want all of you to know what that says about our community, in fact about the world in which we live. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
All of you, by your thoughts, your prayers and your presence, have helped me and my family through this most difficult of times. Maria left us after only seven short, wonderful years, but her memory lives ever so brightly, not only in the hearts of my sister, Pat, and myself, but also in the heart and soul of this community.
I thank DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell for putting aside criticism and politics and doing what needed to be done in his attempt to find justice for Maria. I especially thank Assistant State’s Attorneys Victor Escarcida and Julie Trevarthen for their dedication, expertise and countless hours given with one thought in mind: finding justice for Maria.
I thank all the investigators, especially Chief Don Thomas and Detective Dan Hoffman of the Sycamore Police Department, Hiram Grau, director of the Illinois State Police, and Chief Investigator Brion Hanley with the Illinois State Police. I am thankful that Kane County Associate Judge James Hallock was assigned to hear this case, and I am convinced that it was the hand of God that placed him in that position. He displayed the integrity and gift of discernment that brought honor and justice to all. I am thankful for all the witnesses who had the courage to come forward and testify to the truth of the events as they knew them. But most of all, I end as I began, by expressing my thanks and honor to the great people in our community who reached out with their love and compassion.
At the trial I met a couple from DeKalb, and after seeing them there day after day, I asked who they were and if I should know them. They said, “Oh no. We have only lived here for a few years, but we just want to be here to show you our support.” I met another young woman who was relatively new to Sycamore, and she was very much interested in the history of the town in which she lived, and to her this trial was a part of Sycamore’s history.
Last week, I visited Maria’s grave. There were placed flowers, stuffed animals and other gifts for a child. I was surprised. But I should not have been.
Yes, I express my thanks to the great people in our community that reached out with their love and compassion.
• Charles Ridulph is the older brother of Maria Ridulph. He lives in Sycamore.