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Crime & Courts

McCulloch named DeKalb County public defender

SYCAMORE – The judges of the 23rd Judicial Circuit have named Tom McCulloch the new public defender for DeKalb County.

McCulloch, who was named the 16th Judicial Circuit’s interim public defender in August, is the first public defender for the newly formed 23rd Judicial Circuit. He will lose the interim tag Monday.

In his first five months, McCulloch defended Jack McCullough, who was found guilty of the 1957 kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old Sycamore girl Maria Ridulph. He also has handled pretrial motions for William “Billy” Curl, who is charged with killing Northern Illinois University student Antinette “Toni” Keller in 2010.

The former Geneva attorney took the position on an interim basis after former public defender Regina Harris resigned in June after five years to enter private practice. It meant taking on the Ridulph case, one of the nation’s oldest cold cases to go to trial, on short notice.

“I would say it was challenging, but not insurmountable,” McCulloch said, of the Ridulph case. “It was one of the challenges that made the position attractive.”

Judge Robbin Stuckert said McCulloch was chosen ahead of 10 other applicants for the position and has been impressive during his time as interim public defender.

“We are very pleased with the selection,” Stuckert said. “He has gone above and beyond what any of us had anticipated.”

One of McCulloch’s first challenges as public defender will be adding two attorneys to his office. The DeKalb County Board budgeted $147,000 for the office to hire two new attorneys to help with the growing caseload and responsibilities created from the addition of another felony courtroom.

McCulloch said his new staff would start Monday.

“That’s going to be wonderful,” Stuckert said of the increased staff size. “It’s really essential to his office and the community.”

McCulloch received his degree from John Marshall Law School in Chicago and entered private practice in 1976. He has also served as chief public defender, assistant public defender and interim public defender for Kane County.

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