SYCAMORE – Attorneys for the man found guilty last month of kidnapping and killing Maria Ridulph more than 50 years ago have filed a motion seeking a new trial or not guilty verdict.
Jack D. McCullough, 72, is awaiting sentencing on charges of murder, kidnapping and abduction of an infant. Prosecutors said on Dec. 3, 1957, he abducted 7-year-old Ridulph, who was last seen near her home at the corner of Center Cross Street and Archie Place, and killed her.
Ridulph’s remains were found five months later in rural Jo Daviess County. During the trial, a forensic anthropologist testified that marks on bones of her throat and chest areas looked to be those left by a knife.
McCullough’s attorney, interim Public Defender Tom McCulloch, said the post-trial motion, which allows a judge to change his or her mind, had to be filed within 30 days of the verdict.
McCulloch said he was frustrated by Hallock’s decision to allow hearsay evidence the state sought to include and not admit hearsay evidence defense attorneys wanted to use.
“I don’t think this was worked out to be a very level playing field,” he said.
Within the seven-page motion, defense attorneys claim Kane County Associate Judge James Hallock erred for a number of reasons, including that he barred the defense from using FBI reports that supported McCullough’s alibi, allowed a jailhouse inmate to testify as a John Doe witness on behalf of the state, and admitted Eileen Tessier’s deathbed statement but not her medical records.
The motion also mentions Kathy Sigman Chapman’s unreliable photo identification of McCullough should not have been allowed. Chapman was playing with Ridulph and was the last person to see her the night she disappeared.
Defense attorneys said the FBI records supported McCullough’s claim that he was in Chicago and Rockford for military purposes at the time of Ridulph’s disappearance. Hallock ruled that the records could not be used as evidence because the people in them were dead or unavailable and could not be cross-examined.
The John Doe witness testified that McCullough shared details of Ridulph’s death with him. McCullough’s half-sisters testified that Eileen Tessier, McCullough’s mother, said “Those two little girls, the one that disappeared, John did it,” just weeks before her death in 1994.
Defense attorneys contended that Tessier was being given morphine at the time and was confused.
Prosecutor Julie Trevarthen with the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office called McCulloch’s motion standard and said it’s something prosecutors expect in such a case. Every murder conviction gets appealed, she said.
“It would be unusual to not have them be filed,” she said. Hallock followed the law, she added, and there was some hearsay evidence in the case that was admissible under appropriate exception.
McCulloch said the motion has to raise errors attorneys believe are relevant, and the judge’s decision determines whether the case goes to appellate court.
McCullough’s sentencing is set for Nov. 30.