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Crime & Courts

Victim's brother asks for special prosecutor to defend McCullough trial verdict

Charles Ridulph says state's attorney has abandoned his sister for 'the wrong reasons'

Danielle Guerra -  
Charles Ridulph sits in his Sycamore home blocks away from Center Cross Street and Archie Place where his 7-year-old sister Maria Ridulph was kidnapped in this file photo.
Danielle Guerra - Charles Ridulph sits in his Sycamore home blocks away from Center Cross Street and Archie Place where his 7-year-old sister Maria Ridulph was kidnapped in this file photo.

SYCAMORE – Charles Ridulph is asking a judge to appoint a special prosecutor to defend the conviction of Jack McCullough, who was found guilty of the 1957 slaying of Ridulph’s younger sister, Maria.
In a filing Monday in DeKalb County Court, Ridulph lit into DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack, who last week told the court that McCullough was innocent and should be released.
“My sister Maria was snatched away, raped and murdered, abandoned in the woods,” Ridulph, 70, of Sycamore, wrote. “And now, Richard Schmack has abandoned her yet again and he has done so for the wrong reasons.”
McCullough, 76, was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to life in prison. He is scheduled to appear before DeKalb County Judge William Brady at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday for a hearing on his motion for post-conviction relief. Ridulph has requested that the judge also consider his motion at that hearing.

McCullough is an inmate at Pontiac Correctional Center, and officials said Monday that he will be returned to prison after the hearing.

McCullough was 18 and known as John Tessier when 7-year-old Maria Ridulph was kidnapped on Dec. 3, 1957. He was arrested in Seattle in 2011, after his sister, Jan Tessier, told police that their mother had made a deathbed confession that McCullough had committed the murder.

The timeline of events established by the state at McCullough's 2012 trial was always one of the weakest points for the prosecution, and Schmack said that when compared against the FBI reports and new phone-record evidence, it doesn't hold up.

Schmack in his filing last week said it would have been impossible for McCullough to have committed a crime and said police and prosecutors worked to conceal the truth from grand juries and judges to win a conviction.

In a five-page motion he filed himself, Charles Ridulph makes a plea for a special prosecutor for the case as an interested party under the Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act. He claims that Schmack is wrong to have based his conclusions in the case on information that was not allowed at trial, and that he is acting more as a defense lawyer than a prosecutor.
“What Mr. Schmack is doing is wrong,” Ridulph wrote in his filing. “Mr. Schmack is presenting as truth that which the presiding trial Judge (James) Hallock and the panel of appellate court judges had ruled were not admissible as truth.”
After his 2012 conviction, McCullough appealed his case. A panel of appellate judges upheld his murder conviction while vacating two other convictions in 2015.
McCullough has maintained his innocence and contended that the information from FBI reports from 1957 and 1958 prove he could not have been in Sycamore when Maria disappeared because he was in Rockford meeting with military recruiters.
Schmack found this argument convincing. He said the police reports from the time clearly establish that Maria was kidnapped between 6:45 and 6:55 p.m., and that he has acquired phone records from AT&T at that time proving that a call was placed by McCullough from the downtown Rockford Post Office to Sycamore at 6:57 p.m.
Ridulph said that Schmack’s conclusions are faulty and he should be required to prove them.
“Whatever his motives, Richard Schmack is on a crusade to free Jack McCullough, a self-admitted child rapist and killer,” Ridulph wrote, “and to allow him to do this goes against everything we as human beings should expect from one another.”

Schmack declined to comment Monday afternoon on Ridulph's motion for a special prosecutor. However, he said he stands by his court filing.

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