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CBS to air special on McCullough trial

Members of the media talk to one of the people lingering outside the DeKalb County Courthouse in September after the end of the first day of Jack D. McCullough's trial outside the in Sycamore.
Members of the media talk to one of the people lingering outside the DeKalb County Courthouse in September after the end of the first day of Jack D. McCullough's trial outside the in Sycamore.

SYCAMORE – Sycamore will be in the national spotlight Saturday when CBS airs an hourlong special on the Maria Ridulph murder case that went unsolved for 55 years.

The Emmy award-winning, true-crime series “48 Hours” will air an episode titled “Cold as Ice” at 9 p.m. that chronicles the 2012 trial and conviction of Jack D. McCullough in connection with the 1957 kidnapping and murder of Ridulph – a Sycamore girl who was only 7 years old at the time of her disappearance.

The program will include portions of a one-on-one interview with McCullough. An extended version of the interview will be posted on the “48 Hours” website.

The CBS crew spent months interviewing the people most closely involved with the case including Charles Ridulph, Maria’s brother. Charles Ridulph said the crew always was friendly and never pressing during interviews and looks forward to seeing the finished product.

He said he hoped the program could aid in his healing process and bring hope to families still looking for answers about loved ones they’ve lost.

“It has been helpful, sometimes painful, and yet sometimes comforting, to be a part of putting this story together,” Charles Ridulph said. “We are looking forward to seeing how they depict the events and we are hopeful that the show will be true to the facts, many of which were not brought out at the trial because Jack McCullough chose not to present any defense.”

DeKalb County Public Defender Tom McCulloch, who represented McCullough, said it was an interesting process to have the cameras around and credited the crew for its diligence in interviewing as many people as possible.

McCulloch said he was unsure if he wanted to watch it and relive the experience, but said the community would likely find a behind-the-scenes look at a 55-year-old cold case interesting.

“I may TiVo it,” he said. “Someday I’ll watch it. Maybe when Jack’s case gets reversed.”

McCullough is challenging the guilty verdict at the appellate court.

Others involved in the TV special are concerned about what the editors will focus on. Janey O’Connor, McCullough’s stepdaughter, is worried the production could focus on sexual abuse allegations. McCullough was found not guilty in a separate 2012 trail for the rape of his half sister.

O’Connor said she was interviewed for hours and was hopeful the show would cast a new light on what she believes is a wrongful conviction.

“Every bit of press helps my father in the long run whether it is negative or positive in my mind,” she said. “The documents show my dad did not commit the crime, so any time there is an opportunity for someone to ask a follow-up question about the case, it benefits my dad.”  

Erin Moriarty, the correspondent who reported the story, said she was interested to take the project because she also is a lawyer and it presented challenging questions about evidence. From McCullough’s mother’s deathbed confession to military recruiters providing potential alibis, Moriarty said there were compelling circumstances regarding what would and would not be allowed.

But the portion of the report she expects will attract the most local viewers is her interview with McCullough. She said those who have followed the case closely could be surprised with what they hear.

“I have to say it is the most unusual interview I’ve ever done with a defendant and the most candid,” Moriarty said. “We couldn’t show the whole interview, but you’ll hear why we had to, which is why we’ll have the entire interview online.”  

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