Illinois prosecutor: Man couldn't have slain girl in 1957

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Jack McCullough was convicted of killing Maria Ridulph in 1957. (WLS)

A man convicted in the 1957 abduction and killing of a 7-year-old girl in northern Illinois couldn't have committed the crime, a prosecutor announced Friday after reviewing new evidence in the case.

DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack said his six-month review firmed up an alibi and convinced him that Jack McCullough could not have been anywhere near where Maria Ridulph disappeared in the small community of Sycamore. Schmack said McCullough should be set free.

"The evidence indicates that an innocent man is in jail," Schmack said. "From all the evidence, all 5,000 pages of discovery, that I was able to go through."

Maria's family got the information via email and said Friday they are frustrated.

"We feel abandoned," said brother Charles Ridulph. "Maria is beyond all of this."

Both side will appear in court on Tuesday. The next steps will be determined by a judge.

"We can only rely upon the good judgement of the judge. And we're hoping that is what will happen," Ridulph said.

Maria's body was found several months after she disappeared. The slaying remained a mystery for decades before McCullough, who was initially cleared in the case, was charged in 2011.

McCullough, now 76, was a neighbor at the time of the killing. He had long ago been cleared by authorities before a renewed effort was launched to solve the case. He was found guilty in 2012, and sentenced to life in prison.

New evidence included recently subpoenaed phone records proving that McCullough made a collect call to his parents from a phone booth in the city of Rockford, about 35 miles from Sycamore, just minutes after the abduction took place - which had always been McCullough's professed alibi, but it had previously come under doubt.

Testimony that the abduction had taken place earlier has been discredited, Schmack said, meaning there was no possibility McCullough could have committed the crime and driven to Rockford in time to place that call.

"It's physically impossible to abduct her and then get to the phone," Schmack said.

Ridulph said: "Now it appears that he's able to present this as fact, which the judges has already said cannot be admitted as fact."

But Schmack disagrees.

Schmack was not the state's attorney who prosecuted the case. His office was ordered to the conduct the review as part of a push by McCullough's attorney for a new trial.

"I think the entire prosecution, all the way through, was flawed," Schmack said.

Ridulph said his family believes that the prosecutor has been angling to overturn McCullough's conviction.

"Of course we were shocked, but not surprised," Ridulph said.

Maria Ridulph, 7, was killed in 1957. She was abducted from Sycamore in northern Illinois.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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newsmurderDeKalb County
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