SYCAMORE – Janey O’Connor will leave Sycamore knowing no more about the fate of her stepfather than she knew when she came.
O’Connor, the stepdaughter of Jack D. McCullough, flew in from Seattle to offer support during McCullough’s scheduled sentencing hearing Friday, but the hearing was delayed after pre-sentence reports failed to make it to defense attorneys in time. McCullough will now be sentenced Dec. 10 at 10 a.m.
For O’Connor, whatever sentence is handed down will in essence be a lifetime term for her stepfather, which is why she is hoping his appeal will be successful.
McCullough, 73, was found guilty Sept. 15 for the murder, kidnapping and abduction of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in 1957. But O’Connor said some evidence that was not allowed because it was hearsay – such as military officers’ claims that McCullough was not in Sycamore during the time of the crime – should be legitimized during his appeal.
“I think things are going to go differently,” she said of a potential appeal. “The prosecution was able to paint whatever picture it wanted.”
But before an appeal can be filed, a sentence must be issued, and until then, the Ridulph family struggles to find closure.
Charles Ridulph, Maria’s brother, was surrounded by family Friday during the hearing and was disappointed to learn of the delay. He said the family had planned to put the issue to rest and even had a cousin fly in from California to be with them for the moment.
He also was concerned DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell would no longer be in the position when the sentence was delivered.
“It surprisingly was very upsetting, even though I know this was going to be more or less a formality,” Ridulph said. “It’s extremely disturbing to have this postponement.”
Ridulph prepared an impact statement that will be read during the Dec. 10 hearing.
Campbell, who served his last day in the position Friday, said Judge James Hallock made the correct legal ruling to delay sentencing, but noted the situation was avoidable because the probation officer had 76 days to prepare the standard nine-page report.
The pre-sentence report provides basic background information for the judge to consider before sentencing. Attorneys must receive the report at least three days before the hearing to ensure information is accurate, but McCullough’s defense team did not.
“I’m extremely disappointed, and this continues to create a hardship for the [Ridulph] family,” Campbell said.