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Crime & Courts

Witnesses, family members unmoved by Schmack's finding

Janet (left) and Jeanne Tessier embrace Sept. 14, 2012, after the guilty verdict against their half-brother, Jack McCullough, in the 1957 disappearance and murder of Maria Ridulph outside the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore.
Janet (left) and Jeanne Tessier embrace Sept. 14, 2012, after the guilty verdict against their half-brother, Jack McCullough, in the 1957 disappearance and murder of Maria Ridulph outside the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore.

SYCAMORE – Witnesses and others involved in the prosecution of Jack McCullough said they disagree with any inference they might have been manipulated and that Judge James Hallock’s verdict in 2012 was correct.

McCullough was convicted by Kane County Judge James Hallock and sentenced to life in prison in 2012 in connection with the 1957 murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph, of Sycamore.

Kathy Chapman, who was then known as Kathy Sigman, was playing with Maria the evening she was abducted from the corner of Archie Place and Center Cross Street in Sycamore, near her home. Chapman identified McCullough’s photo from an array of pictures in 2010, in a process that DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack described as “suggestive in the extreme,” concluding that she made a mistake in identifying McCullough as the person who took Maria.

She and her husband, Mike Chapman, dispute that.

“I was present when Kathy made her identification of the photo,” Mike Chapman said by email. “I saw no differences in the photos myself. She was positive then and she’s positive now.

“Jack’s picture matched her description of the Jack she saw that night.”

Jan Tessier, one of McCullough’s six siblings, was the person who provided a critical lead in the case. She reported to police in 2008 that her mother, in 1994, had told her that McCullough had killed Maria and she had to tell someone.

“A judge found him guilty, he’s in prison,” Tessier said. “There are people who probably are going to say he’s not guilty for the rest of his life, and so be it, I’m convinced of his guilt.

“I don’t know what else to say to convince people that this is the way things are, and I just wish that it wasn’t being used as a political tug-of-war for the state’s attorney’s office.”

Schmack also took Illinois State Police and lead investigator Brion Hanley to task for their handling of the case. Hanley, who was named Illinois State Police Investigator of the Year in 2013 for his work on the case, “knew, or should have known, that [McCullough] could have not have been involved in Maria Ridulph’s murder.”

State police issued a statement Friday saying “The ISP conducted a thorough investigation of the 55-year cold case murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in consultation with the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office.”

Former State’s Attorney Clay Campbell, the prosecutor who secured a conviction of McCullough, declined to comment Friday.

Charles Ridulph, Maria’s older brother, was frustrated by the way Schmack had handled the case.

“There’s been no one speaking for us at all,” Ridulph said. “[Schmack] said he doesn’t speak for the victims. That’s what he told us when we asked that.”

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