For more than half a century the town of Sycamore waited for justice for 7-year-old Maria Ridulph; today they got it. A judge hands down a life sentence for her killer Jack McCullough.
McCullough spoke of his innocence for more than 10 minutes before his sentence. He blamed a corrupt and broken system for his conviction. But for Maria's family, they felt today showed the exact opposite.
"This is a perfect example that even after 55 years people can be brought to justice," says Charles Ridulph, Maria's brother.
This summer McCullough was found guilty of murder, kidnapping and abduction of an infant. Those were the charges in 1957. There was little emotion from him during the trial. But before he was sentenced McCullough repeatedly said, "I did not kill Maria Ridulph."
He and his family, who wrote statements of support that were read at the sentencing, leveled accusations at the State's Attorney's office, the investigators and the judge, calling them corrupt and unqualified.
"He places the blame on everyone but himself. He is a narcissist. Everyone who knows his character was able to see who he is through this whole process. And he's shown everyone through this entire process he's still the same person he is today that he was back in 1957 when he killed Maria Ridulph, " says Julie Trevarthen, former DeKalb County Assistant State's Attorney. She lost her job after Clay Campbell, State's Attorney during the trial, lost the November.
Despite pleas for leniency from the defense because they said McCullough is 73-years-old and in poor health. The judge handed down a life sentence.
"I would not have been happy with any verdict other than the maximum because I think it makes a statement that this community will not allow our children to be murdered and abused," says Charles Ridulph.
Ridulph's other sister did not want to speak about what she wrote to the judge and McCullough for her victim impact statement. But her brother spoke the words she could not.. saying she does not hate McCullough.
"She had no malice toward him and that she would be praying for him and for his soul," says Charles Ridulph.
McCullough's defense attorneys did not want to comment after the sentence but says they plan to appeal his conviction.
A 73-year-old man has been sentenced for the kidnapping and murder of a 7-year-old Sycamore girl in 1957.
Jack McCullough, who was convicted of killing Maria Ridulph in September of this year, has been sentenced to natural life in prison for murder, five years for kidnapping, and seven year for abduction of an infant, which under 1957 law included anyone under the age of 12.
Prosecutors argued during the murder trial that McCullough, then known as John Tessier, approached Maria and a friend while they were playing in Maria's front yard. Maria's friend then went home to get mittens, when McCullough dragged Maria into an alley where he choked and stabbed her. He then dumped her body in a wooded area.
Tune in to 13 News at 5 & 6 for more on the sentencing from Rebecca Klopf.
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