By Clifford Ward
3:19 PM EST, December 10, 2012
A man found guilty of murdering a 7-year-old in Sycamore in 1957 was sentenced to natural life in prison this morning in DeKalb County Court..
Jack McCullough, 73, of Seattle, had been scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 30 for the murder and kidnapping of Maria Ridulph, but his attorneys asked for a new date to prepare more adequately for the hearing.
McCullough remained defiant today, making a 13-minute statement in which he denied committing the murder. He also said that FBI records proved he could not have committed the murder. Those records were ruled inadmissable in pre-trial rulings by Judge James Hallock.
Before sentencing, McCullough spoke for about 13 minutes, defiantly denying that he killed Ridulph.
The proof, he said, was in a banker's box in front of him, which he said contained 4,000 pages of FBI reports compiled in the wake of the crime more than 55 years ago. Included were reports that McCullough said supported his alibi that he was in Rockford when Maria was kidnapped.
"In the name of justice and fairness, open the box and view the truth," McCullough told the judge.
However, Hallock had ruled before trial that the FBI documents were not admissible. The testimony of the officer who completed a report is considered evidence -- not the report itself. McCullough's attorneys had argued that the reports should be allowed into evidence because the agents who completed them are dead or extremely aged.
Clay Campbell, the former state's attorney who prosecuted McCullough, called his courtroom statement "self-serving nonsense."
McCullough chose to be sentenced under the law as it existed in 1957. That means that he could, in theory, be eligible for parole in 20 years.
No victim impact statements were read in court. But in a victim impact statement filed with the court, Charles Ridulph, Maria's brother, said, "Jack McCullough has committed an evil act which has impacted the entirety of our lives; the lives of myself, my parents, my sisters and my children."
Ridulph’s parents lived into their 90s.
"Both of them when they died stated they could not wait to be with Maria," he said in the statement.
McCullough was arrested in 2011, almost 54 years after Maria was abducted from a streetcorner in Sycamore where she and a young friend had been playing. Maria’s body was discovered months later near Galena, but the case remained unsolved until a half-sister of McCullough, who suspected his involvement, convinced police to reopen the investigation.
He was found guilty at a September bench trial, where Maria’s playmate identified an old photo of McCullough as being the man who approached her and Maria shortly before Maria disappeared.
In December 1957, McCullough was a 17-year-old Sycamore resident called John Tessier whose family lived about two blocks from the street corner where Maria was last seen.
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