McCullough Murder Charge Dismissed; Hearing On Special Prosecutor Set For June
Murder charges against Jack McCullough have been dismissed. McCullough served nearly four years in prison for the 1957 murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph of Sycamore. Last week, DeKalb County Judge William Brady vacated McCullough’s conviction, and he was freed on bond.
DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack conducted a six-month review of evidence in McCullough’s case, which was prosecuted before Schmack won the office. Schmack determined that McCullough’s six-decade-old alibi was true: He was making a call in Rockford at the time Maria Ridulph was kidnapped in Sycamore.
At Friday morning’s hearing, Judge Brady granted Schmack’s request to dismiss charges against McCullough. Brady did so “without prejudice,” which means the case could still be retried. He said having reviewed voluminous evidence, he couldn't rule on guilt or innocence.
Schmack had requested that the charges be dismissed with prejudice, which would have prevented the charges from being brought against McCullough at a later date.
Brady also considered a request by Charles Ridulph, Maria's older brother, to have a special prosecutor re-try the case against McCullough. Ridulph's lawyer, Bruce Brandwein, argued that Schmack has a conflict of interest in the case, so a special prosecutor is needed to restore the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system. Brandwein implied he had evidence from conversations between Schmack and the Ridulph family that will show a conflict of interest.
Schmack told the judge Ridulph’s claim of bias isn’t valid:
“The conflict, to the extent that there is one, is not a conflict of interest; it is a conflict of conclusion between the conclusion to which I arrived and the conclusion to which Mr. Ridulph arrived.”
Ridulph spoke with reporters after the hearing:
“Under the circumstances, I just want to say that we are pleased with the judge’s decision and we look forward to our next appearance.”
All parties will meet again at 1:30 p.m. June 23 for a hearing on the request for a special prosecutor.
- WNIJ's Jenna Dooley, Susan Stephens, and Chase Cavanaugh contributed to this report.