McCullough appeals murder conviction


Bob Tessier, the half-brother of Jack McCullough, speaks at a press conference following the conviction of McCullough for the 1957 kidnapping of Maria Ridulph, 7. Janet Tessier, Bob’s sister and McCullough’s half-sister, stands beside him. The Tessiers thanked law enforcement officials for solving the case.

By Kelly Bauer

There wasn’t enough evidence to prove Jack McCullough’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for the 1957 abduction and murder of 7-year-old Sycamore girl Maria Ridulph, according to a brief he filed Friday.

The cold case — the United States’ longest to be solved — went to trial in September 2012. McCullough’s 2012 notice to appeal and the brief filed Friday claim the state didn’t have enough physical evidence to convict and raise concerns about how statements from his mother — who died before the trial — and testimony from prison inmates were used.

Charles Ridulph, the brother of Maria, said he knew the appeal would come and said “I don’t believe that’s a surprise to anyone.”

The renewed investigation into McCullough began in 2008 when Janet Tessier, McCullough’s half-sister, contacted police to say her mother, Eileen Tessier, told her while dying in 1994 that McCullough killed Ridulph, who was a neighbor of the family’s. Janet Tessier, Charles Ridulph, a childhood friend of Maria Ridulph’s and a trio of inmates who said they talked with McCullough about Ridulph’s death or overhead him confessing to it testified during the trial.

The attorneys for McCullough questioned the credibility of the witnesses and the lack of physical evidence, but James Hallock, Kane County associate judge, said he took into account the witnesses’ credibility when finding McCullough guilty. McCullough is serving a life term.

“The judge when he … issued his verdict was very clear in giving his reasons for finding [McCullough] guilty,” Ridulph said Monday.

Tom McCulloch, DeKalb County public defender and the attorney who represented McCullough at his 2012 trial, said he hopes the Illinois Appellate Court agrees with the McCullough brief’s claim there was not evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

“I hope the Appellate Court takes that position and gets rid of this one thing once and for all,” McCulloch said.

The state will have an opportunity to respond to the brief, and McCulloch said “they will no doubt ask for additional time.” After that, the briefing schedule will be set and the court can ask for an oral argument from lawyers or can rule based on the briefs that have been filed, McCulloch said.

“[The court] could do about four or five things: They could reverse the case outright, which means their evidence was insufficient. That would be the end of the case,” McCulloch said. “They could reverse it and remand it for a new trial with any number of directions in terms of what evidence comes in or doesn’t come in. And one of the things they asked for was to get rid of the abduction and kidnapping counts; they could reverse it with those things dismissed.

“The choices are endless — not endless, but pretty close to that. Or they could affirm it. They could say, ‘Oh, there were errors, but it wasn’t that bad.’”

Richard Schmack, DeKalb County state’s attorney, said he could not comment on a pending case and his office would not have much to do with the appeal, which will be handled by the Illinois Appellate Court.

“It was anticipated,” Schmack said.