SYCAMORE, Ill. (WLS) --For the first time, Jack McCullough is talking about a judge vacating his conviction for a murder that happened in 1957.
It was one of the oldest cold cases to be tried in U.S. history and now, the case is cold once again. The man once convicted of murder is talking about the controversial decision to overturn the verdict.
"Today is my first day of freedom in nearly five years," McCullough said.
Speaking to CNN, McCullough is shedding light on his freedom and his years behind bars for the slaying of his former neighbor, 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore.
"I was beginning to believe I couldn't get justice," McCullough said.
While in prison serving a life sentence, the 76-year-old says he stayed to himself, but that wasn't enough to always avoid trouble. He recalls an attack by another inmate.
"I took two stitches to the back of my eye. I was a bloody mess," McCullough said.
On Friday, a DeKalb County judge overturned the 2012 murder conviction in the 1957 cold case, pointing to new and old evidence. McCullough appeared to be in disbelief.
"I couldn't believe my ears. I was like, 'Hey, take these off,'" he said.
McCullough said he never stopped fighting to clear his name.
"I knew I was innocent. I knew I had proof that I was innocent and I'm going to make them see the proof one way or another. I did not get a fair trial. I had never seen so many people raise their hand and lie in my life," McCullough said.
So who did kill this little girl in 1957? Her family remains convinced McCullough is guilty. They are seeking a special prosecutor.
"It wasn't me. I am sorry. I know you need the closure. But it wasn't me," McCullough said.
Ridulph's family says they are disappointed over the judge's decision. McCullough was granted a new trial.