Brother of murdered Sycamore girl shares his story on ‘Dr. Phil’

By Margaret Maka

Charles Ridulph, brother to the victim of the longest solved cold-case murder in the United States, appeared on “Dr. Phil” Wednesday to talk about the recent appeal of Jack McCullough, who was convicted of the murder.

McCullough, formally known as John Tessier, was found guilty for the 1957 murder of Ridulph’s 7-year-old sister, Maria Ridulph. McCullough filed a brief to appeal his verdict in April.

The case was cold until 2008, when Janet Tessier, McCullough’s half-sister, contacted police and told them her mother, Eileen Tessier, said on her death bed in 1994 that McCullough killed Ridulph, according to the article.

“Once we put a face on the person, it just changed everything; especially since it was someone from Sycamore, someone that we knew,” Ridulph said. “Once you put a face on evil, it just changed everything.”

“Dr. Phil” appearance

Despite Ridulph’s initial reluctance to appear on “Dr. Phil,” he said one of his prime motivators was to promote “Footsteps in the Snow,” a book about Maria Ridulph’s murder written by Charles Lachman, executive producer of “Inside Edition.”

Ridulph said the “Dr. Phil” staff was very sensitive to his family, putting them at ease and making the experience a positive one.

“When we actually went through the process I was glad that we did because it was a continuing part of the healing process to go over this and to talk to people about it,” Ridulph said.

McCullough’s appeal

Ridulph said he was shocked when he found out McCullough was trying to appeal his life sentence, which was given almost three months after his conviction for the kidnap and murder of Maria Ridulph.

“When you put all the evidence together ­— even though it was circumstantial — I don’t think there’s any question about his guilt,” Ridulph said. “I’ve read the appeals, and we’re confident that the case will stand as is.”

Ridulph said the Sycamore Police Department was helpful throughout the case, keeping the family informed every step of the way and offering any assistance they could.

“I can’t say enough about the Sycamore Police Department or any of the agencies, the state police and the state attorney’s office,” Ridulph said.

Ridulph said the national status of his sister’s case offers hope to others in similar circumstances that there is a chance for them to get answers to their unsolved cases.

“We’ve seen it since Maria’s case, these old cases being revisited,” Ridulph said. “And I don’t believe that would’ve happened had it not been for Maria’s case.”