A 71-year-old Seattle man living under an assumed name at a retirement community in Washington has been arrested in connection with the 1957 kidnapping and murder of an Illinois girl, authorities said Friday.
Maria Ridulph, 7, disappeared while playing near her home in the town of Sycamore, west of Chicago.
Her story captured national headlines and the attention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, according to news accounts published at the time.
Federal agents joined local and state law enforcement authorities as well as the community in the search for the girl, whose remains were found four months later by a couple walking in the woods, the news reports said.
Seattle authorities arrested Jack Daniel McCullough, who also used the name John Tessier, on murder charges filed in DeKalb County, Illinois, the DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell said in news release.
McCullough was a suspect at the time of the girl's disappearance, but the case ran cold after he changed his name and joined the military, Campbell said.
The suspect's neighbors and a former colleague in Washington say they cannot reconcile the man charged with murder as the man they knew as John Tessier.
After serving in the military, McCullough worked at the Lacey Police Department as an officer in the 1970s, said Ed Sorger, the chief of police at Evergreen State College.
Sorger and McCullough, known to him as Tessier, worked together at the police department.
"I was very surprised upon hearing this. It simply didn't fit," Sorger told CNN affiliate KING-TV in Seattle.
Sorger was surprised that a background check didn't turn up something on McCullough.
"We all went through that process," he said.
At the time of his arrest, McCullough was living with his wife in a Seattle retirement community, a neighbor says.
"They were always with their grandchildren," Toni Glenn told the affiliate.
McCullough is currently being held in the King County jail in Washington on a $3 million arrest warrant, Campbell said.
He will make his first court appearance Saturday in Washington's King County, where he will face extradition proceedings, Campbell said.
"This crime has haunted Sycamore for half a century," Campbell said. "We hope that the family of Maria Ridulph and this community can find some solace and closure with this arrest."