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Judge To Appoint Counsel For McCullough Petition

Danielle Guerra
Daily Chronicle

Updated: 3/29/16 2:50 p.m.

Jack McCullough will get a new attorney to help him pursue freedom from his conviction of murdering seven-year-old Maria Ridulph in 1957, and the victim's family will have to wait to pursue a request for a special prosecutor to oppose McCullough.

DeKalb County Circuit Judge William Brady announced those decisions Tuesday afternoon in a crowded courtroom that included a jury box full of reporters from Rockford and Chicago as well as the immediate area.

Brady also offered no comment on the blockbuster statement issued last Friday by current State's Attorney Richard Schmack following a six-month review of evidence in the case.   "I had expected to find some reliable evidence that the right man had been convicted," Schmack wrote. "No such evidence could be discovered."

Brady officially entered Schmack's 34-page compilation into the case record, affirmed that he would appoint a new attorney for McCullough, and scheduled a status hearing for 9 a.m. Friday, April 15.

The judge spoke respectfully to Charles Ridulph, older brother of the victim who was kidnapped on Dec. 3, 1957, then murdered before her body was abandoned in the woods near Woodbine in Jo Daviess County. Ridulph had filed a motion Monday asking that a special prosecutor be assigned to defend McCullough's conviction.

Brady explained that the case is at the beginning of a three-step process, and Ridulph's request would have to wait.

"You want me to get to the end of the book," Brady told Ridulph, "and I’m still at the first chapter."

McCullough, who came into court shackled and accompanied by two guards, also expressed urgency at reaching a conclusion. "I’ve been locked up for nearly five years now," he said. "I’m innocent, and I can prove I’m innocent."

McCullough was living in the Seattle, Wash., area when he was arrested in 2011 and has been incarcerated since that time.

Judge Brady told the courtroom that he will appoint an attorney for McCullough, probably before Friday, and that attorney will have an opportunity to review the documents in the case. They will review the status on April 15 and determine the next step.

Brady explained that he would not be able to overturn the conviction and release McCullough, but the process could result in ordering a new trial.

He also assured the Ridulph family that they would be able to be represented by an attorney and have their concerns heard at a later time.


DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack says the man convicted in the 1957 murder of a Sycamore girl may be innocent.

Jack McCullough was found guilty in 2012 of kidnapping and killing seven-year-old Maria Ridulph.

Schmack announced in a statement that he completed a six-month review of all known evidence in the case. That’s in compliance with a court order requiring the state to respond to Jack McCullough’s petition to review his case. 

Schmack says the state set aside McCullough’s conviction because evidence proves there was no way he could have been in Sycamore at the time seven-year-old Maria Ridulph was kidnapped.  

Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ
Then-State's Attorney Clay Campbell, Julie Trevarthen, and Brion Hanley were all part of the prosecution team in the Jack McCullough murder trial.


Court records verified that Ridulph was abducted in Sycamore between 6:45 and 7 p.m. on December 3rd, 1957. Schmack says McCullough couldn’t have kidnapped her because McCullough made a collect call from a Rockford pay phone at 6:57 p.m. that lasted for two minutes. Schmack says that’s according to Illinois Bell records. 


Schmack wrote, “I know that there are people who will never believe that he is not responsible for the crime.” But he says he can’t let that get in the way of seeking justice and “not merely to convict.”  

McCullough's conviction came before Schmack's time as the county's top prosecutor. The previous State's Attorney, Clay Campbell, led the high-profile prosecution.

Schmack released his 38-page analysis of the evidencein the case Friday.  

The Illinois State Police was involved throughout the investigation and released a statement Friday:

The ISP conducted a thorough investigation of the 55 year cold case murder of 7 year old Maria Ridulph in consultation with the DeKalb County State's Attorney's Office. Ridulph was kidnapped and murdered in 1957. On September 14, 2012, Jack D. McCullough, 72, was found guilty of murder, kidnapping and abduction of an infant. McCullough’s murder conviction was upheld by the 2nd Appellate Court.

  • WNIJ's Chase Cavanaugh, Susan Stephens, Katie Finlon, Jessie Schlacks and Victor Yehling contributed to this story.
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