Washington State resident Jack McCullough, 76, has been dismissed from a life sentence in prison after being wrongly convicted for the murder of a young girl in 1957 in Illinois. McCullough, a Vietnam veteran and former security guard, is now a free man thanks to the ruling of DeKalb County Judge William Brady. After DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack reopened the case, he found evidence that proves McCullough’s innocence in relation to his alibi. Authorities determined him to be in Rockford, Illinois at the time of the kidnapping, noting that he would have been unable to travel to Sycamore to commit the crime.
Maria Ridulph was kidnapped on December 3, 1957 after playing outside with a friend. The investigation surrounding the disappearance attracted members of the FBI including Director J. Edgar Hoover. After five months of investigation, the body of 7-year-old Ridulph was found in northwest Illinois. Because McCullough was not convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2012, more than 50 years after the murder, the case is known as one of the nation’s oldest cold cases.
While some argued that the case should be dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning McCullough would never face the chance of a re-trial, Judge Brady disagreed. “I’ve only been doing this for 41 years and I have never signed an order for dismissal with prejudice,” he told officials.
Maria Ridulph's older brother, who is now a 70-year-old church deacon, does not agree with the dismissal of the case. After creating a petition in search of a special prosecutor to defend the guilty verdict, Charles Ridulph urges the town to stand together for his sister. “We have lost all confidence in the impartiality and integrity of our criminal justice system,” says the petition.