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1957 Murder Charge Appealed, Called “Emotion Based”

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A 1957 murder charge has been appealed by a former police officer who was sentenced to life in prison, due to what his family says was an “emotion based” trial.

74-year old Jack Daniel McCullough was convicted in 2012 of the 1957 kidnapping and murder of 7-year old Maria Ridulph, even though there was no physical evidence to tie him to her remains. One of the country’s oldest cold cases to be “solved”, the murder of little Maria shocked the town of Sycamore, Illinois and garnered the attention of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, and the people of Sycamore wanted answers. When McCullough’s behavior during questioning was found odd, and when his sisters were allowed to admit the deathbed testimony of their mother that McCullough “did it”, he was found guilty by the community even before the judge and jury announced their decision.

“I think the problem with Jack’s trial is, it was all emotion-based,” said Janey O’Connor, McCullough’s stepdaughter. “To find a man guilty based on conflicting stories, unconstitutional rulings and emotion and not allow Jack the chance to present the evidence that cleared his name in 1957 goes against our constitutional rights,” she said.

Included in the prosecutor’s case was testimony from a woman who saw Maria right before she vanished. At the time, she was just 8 years old and was unable to definitely finger a suspect based on photos shown to her by police. She said a man had come by as the girls were playing in the snow and offered Maria a piggy-back ride; Maria wasn’t seen again until the following spring, when her remains were found in a wooded area about 120 miles away. The witness, Kathy Sigman Chapman, was eventually given a second chance at trying to identify the man 53 years later. She picked a photo of Jack McCullough.

McCullough is now appealing his conviction on the basis that Chapman’s initial description of the man who took her friend differed greatly from the photograph she pointed out, the fact that testimony from McCullough’s fellow inmates was allowed even though they varied, and the fact that he was not allowed to submit FBI and police files from the initial investigation that clear him of any wrongdoing because he had an alibi for the day in question.

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1957 Murder Charge Appealed, Called “Emotion Based”
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