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Wednesday
Jul272011

Girl's Body Exhumed for Clues in 1957 Murder

Comstock/Thinkstock(SYCAMORE, Ill.) -- The skeletal remains of Maria Ridulph, a 7-year-old girl who was murdered more than 50 years ago, were exhumed Wednesday by investigators hoping to find clues to convict her suspected killer.

"I don't know what we're going to find, but we would be remiss if we didn't make some effort," said DeKalb County prosecutor Clay Campbell.

The decision to exhume the girl's body from Elmwood Cemetery in Sycamore, Ill., was made after "much consultation with the coroner's office," Campbell said.

He believes new tools available in 2011, especially advances in DNA technology, will help scientists examine the remains.

In recent months the investigation, aided by the FBI, has centered on one of Maria's former neighbors, 71-year-old Jack McCullough, who was extradited from Washington State and was expected to arrive in Illinois Wednesday.

"We're confident we have the right person," said Campbell.

Maria's brother Charles Ridulph, 65, spoke at the press conference Wednesday, saying it has been a very difficult time, adding, "We are so thankful to all the agencies involved in this as to how they have so respectfully treated our family."

When Maria first went missing on Dec. 3, 1957, police received an anonymous phone call days later that John Tessier, McCullough's birthname, matched the description of a man seen talking to her.

When police questioned Tessier he said he had taken a train from Rockford, Ill., about 40 miles from Sycamore, to Chicago, where he received a physical exam and psychological tests to determine his eligibility for military service.

Nearly five months later, Maria's bones were found about 120 miles from where she vanished.

Tessier left Sycamore soon after the murder to serve in the Air Force. He eventually transferred to the Army and later became a policeman.

Maria's murder remained a cold case for decades until new leads began emerging.

According to a police affidavit in 2010 McCullough's ex-girlfriend found an unused train ticket from Rockford to Chicago behind a framed picture. The ticket had a government stamp, the report stated, indicating it was issued to the government, a common practice at the time when distributing tickets to military recruits.

"It was just astonishing that somebody would keep that for as long as they have," said Illinois State police special agent Brion Hanley.

Ridulph remembers McCullough and had even visited his home when he was a child, but couldn't place his face until he saw it in the newspaper.

"The whole town was our playground," Ridulph said. "I think one of the shocking things about when this hit was that he lived just a block and a half away. We played on that street, all of us kids, and he had stepsisters."

Ridulph, a deacon and director of the Christian Senior Ministries in Sycamore, Ill. said it seems everything is "falling into place regarding what I am hearing about this case."

"I have to trust in what the state's attorney and chief of police here is saying and I cannot imagine proceeding with this if they weren't certain that they had a solid case."

McCullough is being held on $3 million bail on a fugitive charge after being arrested June 29 for the 1957 murder.

Police are asking anyone with more information on McCullough to call a tip line: 1-800-843-5763.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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