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Crime & Courts

Schmack rebuts claim that he promised to drop charges against Jack McCullough

SYCAMORE – DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack has responded to accusations that he promised to drop former charges against Jack McCullough involving the murder of 7-year-old Sycamore girl Maria Ridulph.

In a June 3 court filing, Schmack asked DeKalb County Judge William Brady to dismiss a request by the victim’s brother, Charles Ridulph, to have a special prosecutor investigate any possible connection between Maria Ridulph’s 1957 death and McCullough. Charles Ridulph claimed in late May that Schmack made a promise during his 2012 campaign to drop murder charges against McCullough, and therefore created a conflict of interest.

“What are presented as direct quotes from the state’s attorney are more likely distant recollections of Ridulph’s feelings and emotions following the actual conversations of many months ago,” Schmack said

In the amended motion for a special prosecutor, Ridulph’s attorney, Bruce Brandwein, claims his argument is supported by testimony from Ridulph and former DeKalb County Assistant State’s Attorney Julie Trevarthen, who “heard Mr. Schmack state that if elected as state’s attorney, he would dismiss the murder charges,” according to Ridulph’s motion.

Since McCullough’s murder charges were dismissed without prejudice, he could be retried again if a special prosecutor were appointed and chose to reopen the case, Schmack has said. A future DeKalb County state’s attorney also would have the same authority to open the case again. However, Schmack has maintained his stance that Ridulph’s request for a special prosecutor reflects a “conflict of conclusion and not a conflict of interest.”

“It has simply been dressed up with the assertion that the prosecutor ‘pre-judged’ the case, and is now conflicted as a result,” Schmack wrote in the recent court filing. “There is no rational difference between a difference in conclusion which began before the prosecutor’s election and one that began afterward.”

McCullough was convicted in 2012 of Maria Ridulph’s murder, and the case was upheld on appeal. Judge William Brady agreed with Schmack’s request to dismiss murder charges against McCullough, 76, in April.

The case will reconvene June 21 at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore.

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