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Day One Ends Early


The first day of the bench trial for Jack McCullough ended before 3pm Monday in DeKalb County Court. McCullough is accused in the 1957 kidnapping and murder of a young Sycamore girl, Maria Ridulph. The 7-year-old disappeared while playing near her home. Ridulph's body was found several months later in JoDaviess County. The victim's brother, Charles Ridulph, was the first witness called to the stand.

The state asked Ridulph to describe the family's neighborhood at the time of his sister's disappearance. He said it was a safe community, and that children would often play at the very corner where Maria was last seen alive. He also talked about the search efforts that got underway the evening his sister went missing.

Ridulph became emotional when asked to describe Maria. He said she was very smart and active.

During opening arguments, prosecutors noted that McCullough did not take part in the search for the victim, while most other males in the community did. Defense attorneys said the state has no physical evidence to link their client to the crime.

Judge grants gag order

Today's proceedings were delayed so that the judge could rule on a pair of motions filed by prosecutors. They wanted to protect the identity of an informant. The judge granted the request for a gag-order. That informant will take the stand as a John Doe witness.

Witnesses take the stand

After a lunch break, the defense cross-examined Charles Ridulph, asking him about how much car traffic flowed through the Sycamore neighborhood where he grew up.

Detective Irene Lau, with the Seattle police department, said McCullough's demeanor alternated between rage and calm when he was questioned about Ridulph in 2011.  She said McCullough remembered Ridulph as "stunningly beautiful."

Another witness, Pamela Long, testified she remembered McCullough giving her piggyback rides when she was a young girl.  She said her father jerked her off of McCullough after one piggyback ride.

Witness Cheryl Crain testified she was with McCullough's girlfriend the night Maria Ridulph disappeared.  Crain said McCullough was supposed to give her a ride home from a hobby shop that night, but Crain's father picked her up when search parties began to look for Ridulph. Crain says she never saw McCullough the night of the disappearance.

The trial resumes Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.