Officials hope technology can shed light on slaying; ex-cop accused of murder extradited to DeKalb County
Investigators who opened the casket Wednesday of a young girl dead for more than 50 years were “very, very satisfied” with the condition of the remains, a prosecutor said even as he acknowledged shortcomings in the original effort to pin down how the child died.
“We can look through the lens of modern science and see that those findings were inadequate,” said DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell.
Maria Ridulph, 7, was abducted from her Sycamore home the night of Dec. 3, 1957. After an intense search, her body was found nearly five months later in Jo Daviess County, about 120 miles away. Unable to determine the cause of death, the DeKalb County coroner’s office listed it only as “foul play.”
The child’s remains were exhumed around daybreak Wednesday in Sycamore’s Elmwood Cemetery, about the same time that the man accused of her slaying was sent to Illinois from Seattle, where he was arrested.
Jack Daniel McCullough, 71, a former neighbor of the victim’s, was charged this month in her slaying.
Officials say they exhumed the body in hopes that modern technology will help their murder case.
McCullough, 71, a former police officer who was living in the Seattle area, waived his extradition rights and was released Wednesday to Illinois authorities. He arrived at the jail in DeKalb about 4:50 p.m.
Family members said they agreed to the exhumation, but it was difficult to face.
“Although the events are very difficult and very unsettling, we understand the necessity for these things and we are in complete agreement and thankful for the way that this case is being handled,” said Charles Ridulph, 65, Maria’s older brother.
“It’s an emotional thing for me,” said Maria’s oldest sister, Patricia Quinn, 70, of Morris, Ill. “You know, 53 years, it had kind of been all put to rest. … It’s upsetting to have to go through all this again.
“I am praying that if there’s anything that the investigators can use there, that it will be beneficial in bringing the person to justice that did this.”
In a jailhouse interview with the Tribune, McCullough denied his guilt and insisted he had an alibi.
McCullough said that on the day of the girl’s disappearance, he had come to Chicago to take an Army physical exam. But a military archivist later said any such records were destroyed in a 1973 fire.
McCullough joined the Air Force and later the Army. After his discharge, he became a police officer in Milton, Wash., but resigned in March 1982 rather than be fired, records show. That same month he was charged with the statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl and later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
At the time of his arrest, McCullough was living in a Seattle retirement home, where he worked as a night watchman.
Tribune reporters Dave Elsner and Serena Maria Daniels contributed, as did freelance reporter Isolde Raftery from Seattle.