Former Police Officer Convicted of the Abduction and Murder of 7-year-old ‘Pretty Maria’ After 55 Years…The Longest Cold Case in History

DailyMail reports:

A former police officer was finally found guilty, on Friday, of the abduction and murder of a seven-year-old girl 55 years ago.

The conviction of Jack McCullough, 72, represents the longest cold case in history after a DNA breakthrough placed him at the scene of the abduction of Maria Ridulph in 1957.

Maria’s mother died without seeing justice for her daughter’s slaying – a case that caused so much of a national outcry that President Eisenhower and FBI director J Edgar Hoover demanded daily updates.

McCullough, 18 at the time, was initially considered a suspect when the young girl’s decomposed remains were found a year after she disappeared. But he had been ruled out thanks to a fabricated alibi, and thought he had got away with the terrible crime for most of his life.

When an old girlfriend of McCullough’s provided new evidence a few years ago proving he had not boarded the train he claimed to have been on the day the girl disappeared, the case was re-opened.

McCullough had lived near the Ridulph family in Sycamore, Illinois on December 3 – the time that Maria went missing – though had gone by the name of John Tessier in those days.

The case of ‘Pretty Maria’, as the newspapers called her, developed a national following as almost the entire community and law enforcement searched for her.

For the next five months around 7,000 Sycamore residents and dozens of FBI agents frantically searched for her.

Then in April, 1958, Maria’s decomposed remains were found beneath an oak tree near Galena by a couple foraging for mushrooms in Jo Davies County, in the northwest corner of the state.

McCullough was just 18 at the time.

Maria’s friend, Kathy Sigman, told authorities that a young man calling himself  ‘Johnny’ had approached them while they were playing outside on Dec. 3, 1957, and offered to give the girls piggyback rides.

Sigman left to get mittens and when she returned, Maria and the man were gone.

After the initial 1950s case went cold, Tessier, as he was known then, left the Chicago area, joined the United States Army and changed his name to Jack McCullough.

He had told investigators that he was on a train to Chicago to get a medical exam before enlisting in the Air Force, but his then girlfriend later found the Rockford-to-Chicago train ticket from that day that was unused and unstamped.

Maria’s remains were exhumed from her grave in July 2011 so that modern-day forensic scientists may be able to find DNA evidence to implicate McCullough that could not be detected in 1958.

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