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Evidence Will Be Heard In July On Special Prosecutor In McCullough Case

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The question of appointing a special prosecutor in the case of the decades-old murder of a Sycamore girl will continue in an additional hearing next month.

The victim's older brother, Charles Ridulph, has claimed that DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack has a "conflict of interest" in pursuing the case and has asked the court to name a special prosecutor.  

Schmack's motion to dismiss the special prosecutor request was denied by DeKalb County Circuit Judge William Brady during today's hearing. Brady scheduled an evidentiary hearing for 1:30 p.m. July 12 regarding Ridulph's motion for a special prosecutor.

Seven-year-old Maria Ridulph was abducted from her street and later killed in December 1957, and Jack D. McCullough -- known at the time of the abduction as John Tessier -- was convicted in September 2012 of the crime and sentenced to life in prison.

Schmack, in response to McCullough's appeal from prison, conducted a thorough examination of all evidence in the case earlier this spring and reported in March that there was evidence to validate McCullough's alibi that he was in Rockford at the time of the crime.

Brady vacated the conviction, and McCullough was set free. Schmack dropped the charges against McCullough, who returned to his home in the Seattle area.

At the hearing, Ridulph's attorney, Bruce Brandwein, says Schmack made comments on the McCullough case before his election.  This showed impropriety, in his opinion, and may warrant a special prosecutor.  

Schmack argued if Ridulph's allegations are true, then the conflict of interest would have been known three and a half years ago.  

Brandwein said he isn't trying to make life difficult for Schmack, but rather wants a second opinion from a special prosecutor and a "full and fair hearing."  

Brady allowed Northwestern University's MacArthur Justice Center to also participate in the case.  The group filed a friend of the court brief against a special prosecutor.  

If a special prosecutor is appointed, he could review the case and do one of three things:  

  • Revive the case against McCullough by reinstating the charges.
  • Concur with Schmack that there is proof McCullough was not involved.
  • Pursue another avenue of investigation.

McCullough was not present at today's hearing.

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