SYCAMORE – DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack filed a response Tuesday asking a judge to vacate Jack McCullough’s murder conviction and dismiss the charges against him.
McCullough’s lawyers submitted an amended post-conviction petition late Monday, and requested a new trial, at which McCullough, 76, would be allowed to present new evidence.
But a new trial likely wouldn’t be necessary because Schmack has said he agrees McCullough was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph and that his predecessor as state’s attorney, Clay Campbell knowingly introduced false testimony and withheld evidence during the trial.
McCullough is scheduled to appear before DeKalb County Judge William Brady on Friday.
Campbell has declined to comment on the case since Schmack’s March 24 filing.
Despite pleadings from McCullough’s attorneys, Shaun Van Horn and Gabriel Fuentes, to have McCullough released April 1, Brady said he would not rush the process. Since there have been no cases like McCullough’s to set a precedent, Brady refused to make a ruling.
“I have some obligation to make sure I understand the position of both parties,” Brady said in court April 1. “I don’t just have your opinion or your client’s opinion, and the state’s opinion. I also have the opinion of a trial judge and an appellate court. I think it’s premature for me to start commenting on what I think about any of that.”
McCullough was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2012, and his murder conviction was upheld by the 2nd District Appellate Court in 2015. Both the trial and appellate courts determined police reports from the time Maria was abducted were properly excluded from the trial because they were hearsay and the people who compiled them could not be cross-examined.
In a March filing, however, Schmack argued that the timeline established by police reports from 1957 and ’58, show Maria was kidnapped between 6:45 and 6:55 p.m., not around 6 p.m., as prosecutors had argued at the 2012 trial.
Recently found records from Illinois Bell show that McCullough – who at the time was 18 and known as John Tessier – made a call from the downtown Rockford post office at 6:57 p.m. that day, Schmack said.
“The FBI accurately concluded in 1957 that it is an absolute impossibility for anyone to have placed a collect call from inside this public building in Rockford, Illinois, at 6:57 p.m. and also to have participated in the abduction of Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, and there was nothing incorrect about their conclusion that [McCullough] was not involved,” the amended petition read.
Maria Ridulph’s brother, Charles Ridulph, has requested a special prosecutor be assigned to the case, and said he will hire an attorney to represent his family.
“My sister Maria was snatched away, raped and murdered, abandoned in the woods,” Ridulph, 70, of Sycamore, wrote in his request. “And now, Richard Schmack has abandoned her yet again and he has done so for the wrong reasons.”