SYCAMORE – Charles Ridulph doesn’t know how he’ll react Wednesday when he sees video from 1957 of his mother pleading for the return of his sister, Maria Ridulph.
He’ll be one of many viewers watching his late mother, Frances, ask for Maria’s safe return for the first time in decades when footage of it airs as part of a Lifetime Movie Network documentary about 7-year-old Maria’s Dec. 3, 1957, kidnapping.
“It’s hard to say,” Charles Ridulph said. “I’ve been very emotional over this whole thing. You would think soon I wouldn’t be so emotional. ... I would guess there are some things that are going to trouble me.”
The Lifetime Movie Network will premiere the two-hour documentary “Footsteps in the Snow” at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Based on the book by the same name written by Charles Lachman, the documentary chronicles the time from Maria’s kidnapping and murder in 1957 through the conviction of Jack D. McCullough 55 years later in 2012.
The documentary features interviews with Charles Ridulph; Maria’s childhood friend, Kathy Sigman; former DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell; and McCullough’s family, among others. McCullough, known in 1957 as John Tessier, is interviewed from Pontiac Correctional Center, where’s he’s serving a life sentence he is appealing.
Viewers also will see re-enactments and archival footage of the snowy night Maria disappeared and years following. Charles Ridulph said he’s more interested than worried about seeing the actual or staged depictions.
“It’s something that has been so much a part of me and my family it doesn’t take triggers like that to go back,” Charles Ridulph said. “There are always reminders.”
Lachman, the executive producer of Inside Edition, said he spent countless hours talking with the families and uncovering pieces surrounding the case. The documentary features some never-before-seen footage of McCullough working as a fashion photographer, Lachman said.
“People can expect the most comprehensive look at this case on TV,” Lachman said. “It’s the perfect companion for the book.”
Charles Ridulph said he’s optimistic the documentary depiction will be better than other television programs about the case. He didn’t like a “48 Hours” special that aired last year and wasn’t entirely satisfied by the Dr. Phil Show on the case that aired in October. He’s more hopeful this time because he helped edit Lachman’s book, which he already has read and likes.
Some of the proceeds from the book will go to the Ridulph family. The plan, Charles Ridulph said, is to establish a foundation for awarding scholarships or grants to children in-need with some connection to West Elementary School, which Maria attended.
Charles Ridulph also hopes the documentary and book will inspire people with missing loved ones, as well as law enforcement officials, to pursue cold cases.
“I do believe, I honestly believe, good is coming from this,” Charles Ridulph said. “I believe for others in similar situations, this gives them the hope and encouragement that these things – no matter how old they are – will be taken care of.”
On the air
The documentary “Footsteps in the Snow” will premiere at 7 p.m. Wednesday on Lifetime Movie Network.