Hospitalization Delays Hearing for Man Accused in 1957 Homicide

Saturday, Jul 2, 2011  |  Updated 9:20 PM CDT
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Jack Daniels McCullough

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Bond was denied and a court hearing rescheduled Saturday for a 71-year-old Seattle man accused in the abduction and murder of a 7-year-old Sycamore girl in 1957.

Judge Eileen Kato said the defendant, Jack Daniels McCullough -- who has previously gone by the name John Tessier -- was taken to a Seattle-area hospital.

Still, she said there was "probable cause" to detain McCullough in the King County Jail following his arrest Friday at The Four Freedoms House of Seattle, a retirement community in north Seattle where he lived with his wife.

McCullough had maintained an alibi that he was in Chicago during the time of 7-year-old Sycamore, Illinois girl's disappearance, but McCullough's girlfriend from the time uncovered an unstamped train ticket from the day the girl went missing.

The case began in December 1957, when Maria Ridulph disappeared from her neighbor's front yard while playing with a neighbor friend. Early reports in the case stated that Maria and her friend, Mary Catherine Chapman, were playing in the front yard when a blond-haired, young male, calling himself "Johnny," approached the two girls offering them piggyback rides. Mary left Maria and the man alone on two occasions, returning after her second trip inside to find her friend gone.

The Sycamore community and the FBI launched an extensive search campaign for Maria, but their efforts came up empty. Five months later, Maria's decomposed body was found 100 miles from her home near Galena.   

McCullough, 18 years old at the time, was an early suspect in the case that distressed the Sycamore community and was of great interest to both FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

McCullough joined the military shortly after the first investigation and later changed his name to John Tessier in 1994. Under his new identity, he went on to work as a police officer for the towns of Milton and Lacey in the state of Washington. 

Court documents revealed that a collect call McCullough allegedly made from Chicago was in fact made from his Sycamore home.  They also said that McCullough had reportedly given a family member a ride during the time he was supposed to be traveling on the train from Rockford to Chicago.

The unstamped ticket was the key to unraveling McCullough's alibi of having been in the city to enlist for the military.

"Once his alibi crumbled, we found about a dozen other facts that helped us build our case," said Sycamore Police Chief Donald Thomas.

Speaking through her husband Michael at their St. Charles home, Mary Katherine Chapman expressed that she was glad someone has been charged with the murder of her childhood friend, according to a report by the Chicago Sun-Times

After Saturday's hearing, McCullough's niece was clearly conflicted about her uncle's arrest.

"There's a family out there who lost a child.  That should be remembered and considered. My uncle is a wonderful and kind and loving person," said Jen Howton.

 

Maria Ridulph, Courtesy Chicago Sun-Times

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