Jack Daniel McCullough, the Seattle man recently arrested on charges that he kidnapped and murdered a 7-year-old Sycamore, Ill., girl in 1957, was hospitalized Saturday for undisclosed reasons.
McCullough, 71, was scheduled to appear Saturday in a King County, Wash., district court on charges that he killed Maria Ridulph, whose skeletal remains were found near a railroad overpass about 100 miles west of Sycamore five months after she had been kidnapped.
The kidnapping happened Dec. 3, 1957. That evening, Maria and her 8-year-old friend, Kathy Sigman, were playing in their Sycamore neighborhood when a young man who said his name was Johnny approached and offered a piggyback ride.
Kathy, whose married name is now Chapman, went to fetch her mittens. When she returned, the man and Maria were gone.
What followed was a massive search, drawing as many as 2,000 people, with crews pumping a nearby man-made lake empty and 20 scuba divers looking for Maria's body in a water-filled gravel pit.
McCullough — who had been known as John Tessier before he changed his name — was an early suspect before the case went cold.
Chapman and an ex-girlfriend of Tessier's provided detectives with key evidence that undermined his alibi 54 years ago. They also recently led detectives back to the ex-police officer who was now working as a night watchman at a north Seattle nursing home.
Awaiting extradition to Illinois on murder and fugitive charges, McCullough is being held in King County, where a judge there rescheduled his bail hearing for Monday.
Chapman, now living in St. Charles, said she was "elated" by the arrest.
"He didn't get away with it," she said, "and nobody gave up on it. That's the good thing about it."
"I always thought about why Maria was chosen and I wasn't," Chapman said. "He took away my best friend."
Interviews with law enforcement officials and a probable cause affidavit posted on the Seattle Times website show how close authorities were to arresting John Tessier, and how deftly he avoided being caught.
The DeKalb County sheriff's police got an anonymous tip three days after she went missing that led them to Tessier, who lived nearby, according to the affidavit.
He told investigators that he knew Maria, but that he had nothing to do with her disappearance, the affidavit states.
Tessier told police he participated in what was a frantic search for Maria on the night of her disappearance and the next day, according to the affidavit.
But another man whom Tessier said he was with in those searches called him a liar, saying he did not see Tessier on either of those days.
Tessier also told police that on the day of Maria's disappearance, he went to Rockford to try to enlist in the Army, taking a train to Chicago for a physical exam and returning to Sycamore after 9 p.m. that day.
That alibi allowed Tessier to leave Sycamore when he was accepted into the Air Force and later changed his name, according to the affidavit.