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Thread: Seattle man arrested in 1957 killing of Illinois girl

  1. #1

    news Seattle man arrested in 1957 killing of Illinois girl

    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."

  2. #2

    Default Re: Seattle man arrested in 1957 killing of Illinois girl

    Maria Ridulph.

    Authorities say an unstamped train ticket found among an ex-girlfriend's belongings unraveled a half-century-old alibi and led to the arrest of a Seattle man in connection with the slaying of a 7-year-old Illinois girl in 1957.
    Jack Daniels McCullough, 71, is being held in King County Jail in lieu of $3 million bail and is awaiting extradition to Illinois, according to a statement by the Dekalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell.
    He has been charged with murder in the death of Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, Ill.

    McCullough, who changed his name from John Tessier in 1994, is a longtime Washington state resident who served as a police officer in Lacey and Milton, according to a document of probable cause.
    When he was arrested this week, he was working as the night watchman at The Four Freedoms House of Seattle, a 300-unit retirement home in North Seattle, where he lived with his wife.

    The disappearance of Maria Ridulph in December 1957 terrorized the community of Sycamore, about 70 miles west of Chicago, and shocked the nation.
    Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and President Dwight D. Eisenhower both took an active interest in the case, according to reports.

    Maria's 8-year-old friend said the two girls had been playing in a neighbor's front yard when a man named "Johnny" came up and asked to give them a piggyback ride.
    The friend went inside for a moment, and when she returned, Maria was gone.
    Maria's decomposed body was found five months later about 100 miles from her home.

    McCullough, who was 18 at the time, was an early suspect but had an alibi, claiming he had been in Chicago when Maria was abducted. The case went cold after he joined the military.

    The investigation was reopened last year, according to court documents filed in King County District Court, when police re-interviewed a woman who dated McCullough at the time of the abduction.
    The document of probable cause revealed that when investigators last year asked McCullough's ex-girlfriend to look for pictures and other items from their time together,
    she found an unused and unstamped train ticket from Rockford, Ill., to Chicago.

    McCullough had claimed he'd taken the train from Rockford to Chicago on the day of the abduction to enlist in the military, according to the document,
    which was mistakenly left unsealed and reviewed by a Seattle Times reporter who was not allowed to make a copy.

    The unused ticket, dated on the day the girl went missing, poked holes in McCullough's alibi, according to court documents, and refocused attention on McCullough.
    "He had been a very good suspect in the beginning. He lived about a block and half away from the victim, he fit the description and his clothes matched,
    but he had an alibi that he was someplace else," said Donald Thomas, chief of the Sycamore Police Department. "Once his alibi crumbled, we found about a dozen other facts that helped us build our case."

    Court documents say investigators discovered that a collect phone call purportedly made by McCullough to his ex-girlfriend from Chicago was actually made from his own home in Sycamore on the day of the girl's abduction.
    They also discovered he had given a ride to a family member at a time when he should have been on the train, court documents say.

    After McCullough got out of the military, he became an officer at the police departments in Lacey and Milton, according to the court documents.

    According to the document of probable cause, McCullough was dismissed from the Milton Police Department after he allegedly sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl.
    It wasn't immediately clear whether he was ever prosecuted. No one could be reached at the Milton Police Department to confirm his employment.

    Dawn Gothro, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Retirement Systems, said McCullough, using the name John Tessier, had withdrawn from Washington state's police pension system in April 1976.

    News of his arrest was met with shock and disbelief among residents at The Four Freedoms House of Seattle.

    Gaylee Shelton, 73, said McCullough and his wife were well-known throughout the community. He was a "nice guy" who held a disaster-preparedness seminar for residents after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

    "In all my life, I never would have guessed," said Rena Rooney, 88, looking over a copy of a brief news article detailing the charges in Illinois. "It's such a shame. He was so good to us."

  3. #3

    Default Re: Seattle man arrested in 1957 killing of Illinois girl

    Detectives want to know more about Illinois cold case suspect .

    LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- The lead investigator in the murder of a 10-year-old Lakewood girl wants to know more about a suspect in an Illinois cold case.

    "We need to look at it," said Lt. Chris Lawler, speaking of the case of Jack Daniel McCullough, also known as John Tessier.

    McCollough, a 71-year-old from Seattle, was arrested last week after investigators said he killed a 7-year-old girl in Illinois in 1957.

    "These cases are really rare," said Lt. Lawler who was a Lakewood Police sergeant when he was assigned to the Adre'Anna Jackson murder case.

    Jackson was 10-years-old when she disappeared from near her Lakewood home in December, 2005. Her remains were found five months later in an abandoned lot.

    Police have a number of people of interest, but no arrests have been made in the case.

    Lawler told KING 5 News he wants to know where McCullough lived in 2005.

    If he could have been in the area around the time of Jackson's murder, Lawler said he will contact the FBI for more information about McCullough.

    Lawler said even years after Jackson's murder, he's "extremely frustrated" it has not been solved.

    "I could retire and the case could still be open," said Lawler.


  4. #4

    Default Re: Seattle man arrested in 1957 killing of Illinois girl

    McCullough's stepdaughter: 'I know he didn't do this'

    SEATTLE -- A former police officer accused in the 1957 murder of a young girl outside Chicago has pleaded not guilty to a fugitive charge.

    Jack McCullough entered the plea to the charge of being a fugitive from justice in Seattle on Wednesday. The charge allows authorities to hold McCullough until he is extradited to Illinois.

    Meantime, cold case detectives are working to determine whether 71-year-old McCullough is connected to other outstanding cases. But the man's stepdaughter insists he is not.

    "Jack McCullough is my father. I love him and believe in him. And I know he didn't do this," said Janie O'Connor.

    O'Connor hoped for a glimpse of her stepfather in court, but he waived his right to appear and his attorney entered his plea on his behalf.

    McCullough's arrest has given detectives desperate to solve old crimes against young girls reason to review their cases.

    "I can remember all the girls who have been killed since I've been hired," said Pierce County Det. Ed Troyer.

    Andre-anna Jackson disappeared on her way to school. Kimberly Delange vanished from a Puyallup shopping center in 1988. Misty Copsey was last seen in 1992. Teekah Lewis has been missing since 1999. Michella Welch and Jennifer Bastian were both kidnapped while riding their bikes 25 years ago. Anna Lee Chebetnoy's body was found dumped near Enumclaw. Shannon Pease's was found in a field in 1988.

    Pierce County sheriff's detectives have five of those eight unsolved crimes. They're now searching for even the tiniest sample of DNA evidence that might crack their case.

    "They'll go through the evidence from 20 to 25 years ago," Troyer said. "You never know which piece of rope has a hair in it."

    Tacoma detectives have already sent DNA samples to a lab to see whether McCullough is a match.

    "Over the years, science and technology have made a lot of advances. This could be our break," said Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum.

    For 50 years, Illinois detectives suspected McCullough in Maria Ridulph's death, but could not connect him to the crime.

    A tipster rekindled the case and an old girlfriend found an unused train ticket from the day the girl disappeared, effectively nullifying McCullough's alibi.

    But O'Connor is still not convinced.

    "I went on eBay and found three bus tickets from 1958 that were not used that you could bid on," she said.

    McCullough is being held on $3 million bail. He will eventually be extradited to Illinois to face the murder charge.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Seattle man arrested in 1957 killing of Illinois girl

    Prosecutor: Man wrongly convicted of 1957 cold-case murder

    (CNN)An Illinois prosecutor says he has found "clear and convincing evidence" that a former police officer was wrongly convicted of the 1957 murder of a 7-year-old girl in what is believed to have been the nation's oldest cold case to go to trial.

    Jack Daniel McCullough, a 75-year-old military veteran and former police officer from Seattle, was convicted in 2012 of the abduction and murder of Maria Ridulph.

    The child vanished from a street corner in Sycamore, Illinois, a small farming community about 65 miles west of Chicago. A judge hearing the case without a jury found McCullough guilty after a weeklong trial.

    Richard Schmack, the state's attorney for DeKalb County, said his review of the case led him to conclude that McCullough could not have committed the crime.

    "The People are ethically compelled and constrained to admit the existence of clear and convincing evidence showing Defendant to have been convicted of an offense which he did not commit," Schmack said in court documents.

    McCullough has always insisted he was innocent.

    "Look in the box. The truth is in the box," McCullough said at his sentencing, pointing to a cardboard box in the courtroom.

    It was filled with old FBI reports and other documents that the judge, James Hallock, barred the defense from presenting, saying it was inadmissible hearsay.

    Schmack looked in the box. He said he spent six months reviewing about 4,500 pages of vintage police and FBI reports, and reconstructed the timeline surrounding the child's disappearance.

    He also turned up new evidence by subpoenaing AT&T phone records. He concluded that the alibi claimed by McCullough, who was then known as John Tessier, holds up.

    It was impossible for McCullough to have committed the crime, Schmack said, because he was about 40 miles away in Rockford when Maria vanished.

    Even giving the prosecution's revised timeline, he added, McCullough would have had to have driven more than 100 mph in the snow to make it from Sycamore to Rockford after snatching the girl.

    "I truly wish that this crime had really been solved, and her true killer were incarcerated for life," Schmack said. "When I began this lengthy review I had expected to find some reliable evidence that the right man had been convicted.

    No such evidence could be discovered. Compounding the tragedy by convicting the wrong man, and fighting further in the hopes of keeping him jailed, is not the proper legacy for our community, or for the memory of Maria Ridulph."

    A hearing in the case is scheduled Tuesday in Sycamore.

    Schmack concluded that the Illinois State Police got the timeline wrong. There was no evidence to support the theory that Maria was taken as early as 6:15 p.m., as investigators claimed in an affidavit supporting the arrest warrant.

    The Illinois State Police said the case was thoroughly investigated and that the conviction had been upheld by Illinois' 2nd Appellate Court.

    Schmack pointed to the account of a fuel oil deliveryman, Tom Braddy, and others who placed Maria and her friend, Kathy Sigman, on the street corner between 6:30 and 7 p.m., and to the AT&T records that support McCullough's version of events.

    At least two people told police in 1957 that they heard a scream at about 7.

    "Thousands of pages of improperly excluded police reports more than 20 years old contain a wealth of information pointing to McCullough's innocence, and absolutely nothing showing guilt," Schmack said in a statement announcing his decision not to fight McCullough's request to overturn his conviction. Without resistance from prosecutors, McCullough likely could go free as early as next week.

    Schmack told CNN his office notified the Ridulph and Tessier families by letter.

    The prosecutor also filed a lengthy report with the court, saying it was his ethical duty to take another look at the case, which was prosecuted by his predecessor, Clay Campbell.

    "I know that there are people who will never believe that (McCullough) is not responsible for the crime," Schmack said. "Many of these people are my neighbors in Sycamore.

    But I cannot allow that to sway me from my sworn duty ... and to perform faithfully the primary duty of my office, 'To seek justice, not merely to convict.'"

    Campbell called the decision a "travesty." He said he considered solving Maria Ridulph's murder to be his "life's work."

    Charles Ridulph, Maria's older brother, told a local newspaper that Schmack's decison was "ridiculous."

    "A few months ago [Schmack] gave me a copy of his time frame, and I went through that and it just made me sick," Ridulph told the Daily Chronicle.

    "There's a reason that none of [the old police reports were] allowed into evidence to begin with, because there were so many discrepancies and you couldn't cross-examine it."

    The Tessier family's reaction was not immediately known. But McCullough's wife, Sue, said she felt vindicated.

    "I told you all this time. I told you he was innocent," she said, adding she was "feeling nervous and excited at the same time."

    Sue McCullough, who lives in a seniors complex in Seattle, pointed out that her husband "hasn't lived here in five years" and said she was able to visit him just once in prison in Illinois.

    "We talk on the phone, and we write letters. If he was in there all alone and he had nobody to write to, it would have been so hard for him.

    I've been living all alone, and at first I didn't like it, but as the years go by, I get used to it. Not a word is spoken in this apartment except by me."

    McCullough's stepdaughter, Janey O'Connor, has stood by him. She and her husband, Casey Porter, plan to be in court on Tuesday. She praised Schmack for taking a second look at the evidence.

    "This is bravery. This is courage," she said. "The whole town of Sycamore wants Jack to be guilty."

    O'Connor said she had resigned herself to the reality that her stepfather would likely die in prison, convicted of a crime he didn't commit.

    "I can't believe Jack made it to the end," she said. "We're still in that limbo where we say, 'OK, the prosecution and the defense are saying he's not guilty, but what do we do now?' "

    She says Campbell and the Illinois State Police "decided Jack was guilty and built a case around it."

    "If you don't have money, you just get ground up by the legal system," she added. "I would have never thought that this would be my life, but that's what can happen to anyone. It's terrifying."

    McCullough has been held at the Illinois state penitentiary in Pontiac. He maintained his innocence in a prison interview with CNN in 2013. He insisted that the FBI questioned him and cleared him in 1957 because his alibi checked out.

    He couldn't be the killer, he insisted, because he was not in Sycamore when Maria was taken.

    The subpoenaed AT&T phone records support McCullough's version of events. He said he called home, collect, to ask his father for a ride after meeting with U.S. Air Force recruiters in Rockford.

    The records show that a call was indeed connected from a pay phone inside at the old Rockford post office at 6:57 p.m. -- approximately the same time Maria vanished from the corner of Center Cross Street and Archie Place.

    The child had been talking with a young man who called himself Johnny and who gave her a piggyback ride. Her disappearance shocked the close-knit farming community to its core and left Sycamore forever changed.

    Nearly three dozen FBI agents descended on the town of 7,000, looking in basements, storm drains, ponds, railroad cars and the trunks of cars.

    They interviewed dozens of people, including known sex offenders. FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover took a personal interest in the case, as did President Dwight Eisenhower.

    Maria's body was found some five months later, near Galena, a small town just a few miles from the Iowa state line.

    The case went unsolved for more than half a century. The Illinois State Police opened an investigation after McCullough's sister, Janet Tessier, called a tip line and repeated what their mother had said on her deathbed 14 years earlier: "Those two little girls, and the one that disappeared, John did it. John did it, and you have to tell someone."

    As state's attorney at the time, Campbell brought the case, but was defeated by Schmack in an election just weeks after McCullough was convicted.

    While Schmack was a spectator during the trial, Campbell, by then a lame duck, was the spectator when McCullough was sentenced to life in prison.

    Cold cases are particularly difficult to prosecute because evidence is often lost or destroyed, memories fade and witnesses die. And so doubt has lingered over the evidence used to convict McCullough -- and whether it was strong enough.

    No physical evidence ties him to the crime.

    Instead, prosecutors relied on a revised timeline, the deathbed accusation by McCullough's mother as recalled by his sister, and an eyewitness identification by another child -- now Kathy Sigman Chapman -- who was playing with Maria in the snow shortly before she vanished.

    Chapman responded to the latest developments through her husband, Mike: "We read the response and we're not surprised by his action. We believe it's politically motivated. It is an election year and he is running to be re-elected. Kathy got it right. It's sad it has come to this."

    The defense was barred by hearsay limitations from presenting its own timeline because McCullough did not testify. Tom McCulloch, the public defender, had wanted to offer the 1957 FBI reports that cleared his client and supported his timeline.

    In Illinois, police reports are generally excluded and are not accepted as substitutes for live testimony.

    Schmack said his parsing of an appeals court decision denying McCullough a new trial contained an eye-opening detail:

    The court found that while the FBI reports were inadmissible as "business records," they could have been included as "ancient documents" because they are more than 20 years old.

    McCullough had nearly exhausted his appeals. He had convinced the appeals court to toss out his convictions for kidnapping and abduction of an infant on legal technicalities related to the age of the case.

    But his murder conviction stood as he lost at every turn in Illinois' appellate courts.
    Late last year, McCullough turned again to the courts in Sycamore, filing a lengthy, handwritten appeal seeking a judge's declaration that he is innocent.

    He lost that, too, and the judge called the appeal "frivolous and without merit."

    But public defendner McCulloch and his investigator, Crystal Harrolle, noted that the points he'd made "inartfully" were worth pursuing. They again took up his cause -- even though they were no longer appointed to represent him.

    They asked the court to reconsider, saying new evidence had come to light.

    And that is what triggered the prosecutor's extraordinary response.

    That "new" evidence cited by the defense lawyers included allegations of false promises made by prosecutors to fellow county jail inmates who testified against McCullough.

    But perhaps the most compelling discovery was the disputed statement of Jan Edwards, their client's high school girlfriend in 1957.

    Schmack cites the dispute in his report to the court, but says it turned out to be just one of many issues he had with the case. Still, it signaled that he was taking a hard look at the evidence used to secure the conviction.

    Edwards is Jan Swafford now, and she lives in Florida.

    The "new" evidence includes what she said during a taping of a "Dr. Phil" show about the case. She was in the audience, and insisted that she may have seen McCullough on the night Maria disappeared.

    In an exchange of letters with Schmack, she said she never told investigators that she didn't see McCullough that night.

    And she insisted she never told the investigator that her father had forbidden her to leave the house.

    She was brought to Sycamore but never testified at the trial. She said she was eager to tell her story but "never had the chance."

    The defense alleged that prosecutors should have disclosed the discrepancy but instead hid Swafford from them during the trial.

    Her correspondence with Schmack was attached to a legal motion filed last fall. The prosecutor initiated the conversation in a letter dated November 6, 2014 -- shortly after the case was featured on the "Dr. Phil" show. Schmack opened his letter by taking pains to point out that he was not involved in the initial prosecution but would be tasked with making any decisions should the conviction be reversed.

    "When you appeared on the 'Dr. Phil' show a few weeks ago, you gave a brief account of contact you had with Mr. McCullough on the night of the Ridulph kidnapping," Schmack wrote. "This account seemed more consistent with the defense theory of the timeline than the prosecution. I was surprised you were given so little time to explain and that no questions were posed to you."

    He pointed out that what she said on the show was "entirely inconsistent" with an Illinois State Police investigator's "field notes" memorializing their telephone conversation.

    The report stated: "Jan stated the night Maria was kidnapped her parents would not let her leave the house at all, not even to go on date, she does not recall John coming to her house that night."

    Four days later, Swafford responded, sending her letter by fax. She said she was "greatly disturbed" by what Schmack said was in the investigator's report.

    "It is completely the opposite," she wrote. "I never did say he wasn't with me that night or that Dad wouldn't let me out of the house.

    What I did say is, 'I can't confirm the exact date that my recollection happened, but he came over around 9:30 p.m. as we had planned.'"

    She added that he didn't stay long because she had a curfew. They talked outside, in a car, she added. "He said he was very happy and excited because he had just passed his test for the Air Force and he will be able to get into it.

    He asked me to hold the train ticket for him so he wouldn't lose it.' That was it. We talked for a while and he went home."

    McCullough, then John Tessier, with high school girlfriend Jan Edwards, now Jan Swafford, at a formal dance.
    At the time of McCullough's arrest, attention focused on the train ticket as a "smoking gun" in the case. But in the end, it bore little relevance because it had never been punched.

    Swafford said in her letter to Schmack that she has tried to ignore the false reports, many of which focused on a train ticket. "It sounds like they just wanted to make an interesting story about it and get a conviction," she wrote.

    "All I know is what I know to be true," she continued. "My memory of that night has never changed, and I have tried to ignore all of the newspapers' versions of what I said and just try to stick to what I actually remember."

    Schmack assured her that he wouldn't expect her to remember everything that happened on that night in 1957, but added, "My job is primarily to seek justice."

    He said her "recollection of the events" as well as her more recent recall of her dealings with police and former prosecutors "may be of great assistance in that endeavor."

    CNN's Brad Parks contributed to this story.


  6. #6

    Default Re: Seattle man arrested in 1957 killing of Illinois girl

    Police may have new suspect in cold case murder of Maria Ridulph

    Illinois State Police are investigating a new potential suspect in the 1957 cold case murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph.

    CNN reports that DeKalb County prosecutor Richard Schmack's office received an anonymous tip back in March, around the same time a previous conviction in the case began to unravel.

    CNN says authorities are not releasing any other information about the new potential suspect.

    Ridulph vanished while playing with a friend on a dark Sycamore street corner in December 1957.

    Jack McCullough was convicted in 2012 for the little girl's murder, but that conviction was cleared earlier this year.

    McCullough, who is 76-years-old, is asking for a judge to officially declare him innocent

  7. #7

    Default Re: Seattle man arrested in 1957 killing of Illinois girl

    Special prosecutor to look at cold case perjury claim

    (CNN)A special prosecutor has been appointed to look into whether police and prosecutors in a small Illinois town engaged in misconduct to win a false conviction in one of the nation's coldest murder cases.

    An order signed by Robbin Stuckert, the chief judge in DeKalb County, Illinois, appoints the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor to look into whether a Seattle police officer committed perjury when she testified during the 2012 murder trial of Jack Daniel McCullough.
    The office, based in the state capital, Springfield, includes a Special Prosecution Unit staffed with about a dozen lawyers. An attorney with the unit, Brian Towne, filed court papers accepting the appointment on Friday, the court clerk's office confirmed.
    Detective Irene Lau testified in 2012 that McCullough spoke of the 7-year-old victim as if he were "deeply, deeply in love with her" as she prepped him for a polygraph examination. Lau said his voice grew soft and he seemed wistful as he recalled her as "stunningly beautiful" with big, brown eyes. He said she was "lovely, lovely, lovely," the detective testified.
    McCullough vehemently denied killing the child, but police and prosecutors viewed his demeanor during questioning as convincing evidence of his guilt.
    The appointment of the special prosecutor signals a new twist in this nearly 60-year legal saga: The McCullough investigation -- and the investigators -- have now come under investigation.
    The special prosecutor will be asked to determine whether Lau was truthful. Questions also have surfaced over whether police and prosecutors deliberately concealed a 78-minute videotape that contradicted her version of what McCullough said under questioning.
    Attempts to reach Lau through the Seattle police department were unsuccessful. The department did not respond to a request for comment.
    Lau didn't seem to make any effort to conceal the video's existence, writing in the second paragraph of a June 29, 2011 report summarizing her questioning of McCullough: "I advised him that this was a government building and that our interview was being audio and video recorded."

    But a year later, Julie Trevarthen, a prosecutor in Sycamore, Illinois, appeared to deny to the court that a video of the June 29 interview existed, saying that McCullough "just happens to be in another room and a tape is not running."
    No video was included in the voluminous court file or turned over to the defense, as required by court and ethical rules, according to court documents seeking the special prosecutor's appointment.
    Trevarthen said in an email reply to CNN that she could not comment because of the pending litigation, "although I have a lot to say."
    McCullough was convicted in September 2012 of the 1957 abduction and murder of Maria Ridulph. At the time, his conviction was touted as closing the oldest cold case ever tried, a feat that was explored in CNN's multi-part series "Taken." The series raised questions about the fairness of the trial and conviction.
    Others had doubts as well. McCullough was released from prison nearly a year ago after a judge threw out the conviction. Judge William Brady agreed with a new prosecutor's conclusion that it would have been impossible for McCullough to have committed the crime, as he was 40 miles away at the time Maria was kidnapped by a stranger who called himself "Johnny."
    McCullough is asking Judge Brady to declare him innocent; a hearing has been set for April 6.
    Former State's Attorney Richard Schmack requested the special prosecutor before he left office in December. Schmack was defeated at the polls in November after he determined McCullough was innocent and took steps to reverse his conviction and set him free.

    The inquiry will focus on how evidence and witnesses were handled by the team assembled by Schmack's predecessor, Clay Campbell. The current state's attorney, Rick Amato, expects to remain on the sidelines.
    Campbell has not commented publicly on McCullough's release or the most recent developments in a case that has gone off the rails. He did not respond again to CNN's emails and phone calls requesting comment on the appointment of a special prosecutor.
    The special prosecutor's primary focus will be on whether Lau committed perjury. But the inquiry could expand into other misconduct allegations.
    In her report summarizing the interview, Lau wrote: "I asked him to describe Maria. At this point, McCullough's expression softened. He stated, 'She was stunningly beautiful, with big brown eyes. She was lovely, lovely, lovely. She was bi-racial, half Mexican, and her people were actors.'"
    She all but repeated herself on the witness stand a year later -- on September 10, 2012: "Well, when he described her to me, he described her as being very stunningly beautiful with big brown eyes and he stated that she was 'lovely, lovely, lovely.'"
    The video tells a different story about what was said during that interview.
    McCullough is never heard describing Maria as "lovely, lovely, lovely." About nine minutes into the video, he does describe her as "a loved little girl," mumbling a bit. He also calls her "an adorable little girl" with "great big brown eyes" and says she was loved by everybody in the neighborhood.
    He vehemently denies having anything to do with her abduction and murder: "I loved that little girl, like the whole neighborhood loved that little girl."
    The video had not yet been discovered and wasn't included among Schmack's findings when he pushed to overturn McCullough's conviction. His report in late March 2016 took to task Campbell, his assistants and the investigators with the Illinois State Police. Schmack found multiple instances in which they ignored, withheld or buried evidence that pointed to McCullough's innocence.

    Schmack spent six months reviewing the contents of the court file, which exceed 5,000 pages, and concluded that McCullough couldn't possibly have committed the crime. He would have had to have been in two places 40 miles apart at the same time, a physical impossibility, he noted.
    McCullough said he was in Rockford, Illinois, trying to enlist in the US Air Force when Maria disappeared. His alibi was reinforced by phone records verifying a two-minute collect call he said he made to his family's Sycamore home from a pay phone at the Rockford post office. The call was placed at 6:57 p.m., within a few minutes of the time authorities investigating the case in 1957 believed Maria was taken.
    Instead, Illinois State Police investigators, citing a single line out of context from a 1958 police report, pushed the time of the abduction back, saying she was kidnapped shortly after 6 p.m. But FBI reports from 1957, which showed Maria was last seen closer to 6:45 p.m., were barred from the trial as unreliable "hearsay."
    Schmack concluded that the prosecution of McCullough was characterized by an "almost systematic concealment of the truth" that resulted in the conviction of an innocent man.
    "When I began this lengthy review," Schmack wrote, "I had expected to find some reliable evidence that the right man had been convicted. No such evidence could be discovered."
    McCullough's son-in-law, Casey Porter, maintains a blog about the case and requested the perjury investigation. Porter obtained the video in response to a public records request to Seattle police, which helped take McCullough into custody and participated in his questioning. Porter informed Schmack and asked him to investigate.
    Schmack in turn requested the special prosecutor. Looking into suspected misconduct by past and current employees of his office would create a conflict of interest, he argued.
    "Any prosecution of Detective Lau would almost certainly involve inquiry into the handling of the entire investigation and prosecution of Jack D. McCullough, and such inquiry would clearly involve interviews with past, and perhaps, current employees of the DeKalb County State's Attorney's Office," Schmack wrote.
    Stuckert, the presiding judge, had requested assistance from several neighboring prosecutors' offices, as well as the state attorney general. All turned her down, citing limited resources, before the appellate prosecutor's elite Special Prosecutions Unit accepted the job. Ironically, other lawyers in the appellate prosecutor's office spend much of their time defending convictions.

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