Woman describes last moments with murder victim

July 13, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Little Kathy Sigman, who grew up to become Kathy Chapman, has long wondered about that night over half a century ago, and for the last two weeks, it has had her on an emotional roller coaster.

Forever stamped in Chapman's memory is the chilly December night 54 years ago when her best friend disappeared. They were playing in front of a house in their hometown of Sycamore. A young man approached. Kathy went home to get her mittens. When she returned, her friend, 7-year-old Maria Ridulph, was gone.

Five months would pass before Maria's decomposed remains were found 120 miles away.

A newspaper story in 1997 said the case had been solved because an inmate, considered a possible suspect, had died. But two weeks ago, Chapman got a call from the DeKalb County state's attorney.

"He told me, 'Are you sitting down? I have some news for you. We're going to make an arrest,'" said Chapman.

The man arrested was Jack Daniel McCullough, now 71. He's being held in Washington State. A half century ago, he lived not far from Kathy and Maria Ridulph.

The news has Chapman wrestling with memories. When asked how many lineups she went through, she said, "I couldn't tell you. I couldn't put a number on it."

It was a different time. The 8-year-old girl was sometimes asked in the presence of a possible suspect if she could identify him. Her recollection is that no one back then asked her about McCullough, whose name at the time was John Tessier.

"In the papers, someone gave an anonymous tip they should look at this guy, at this kid, and what did they do? Did they look at him. He had an alibi. Did they ingorre it?" said Chapman.

Chapman doesn't remember being shown a picture of McCullough.

Last fall, with two state troopers in her house, Kathy identified a photo of John Tessier taken in the late 50's. She says she didn't know his name, but recognized his face and hair. She says she's also been told that her ID is not critical to the case and that investigators have other strong evidence that they will now not share with her or the general public.

"The state police would not reopen this investigation if they didn't have evidence against this person," said Chapman.

In a news conference Tuesday, the DeKalb County state's attorney refused to discuss in any detail the case against McCullough. Kathy Chapman and her husband, Mike, think that perhaps, after all these years, someone is talking. It is not Jack Daniel McCullough who has proclaimed his innocence and is fighting extradition from Washington state.

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