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Judge To Decide Next Week If Jack McCullough Is Certified Innocent In 1957 Murder

Jack McCullough was back in DeKalb County Court Thursday seeking a Certificate of Innocence that will officially clear him in the 1957 murder of a Sycamore girl. It would also allow him to sue the state of Illinois for the conviction and subsequent imprisonment. 

Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ
Jack McCullough (right) talks with reporters outside the DeKalb County Courthouse Thursday as his lawyer Russell Ainsworth stands by.

McCullough was convicted in 2012 for the murder of  7-year-old Maria Ridulph in what was the oldest cold case ever brought to trial in the U.S. and sentenced to life in prison.

McCullough was released after five years and his conviction vacated in April 2016.  Then DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack said after a court-ordered review of the case that McCullough could not have committed the crime. 

In court Thursday, McCullough's ex-girlfriend Jan Swafford testified by camera from her home in Florida that McCullough was with her at 9:30 p.m. the night of the 1957 kidnapping.

Current DeKalb County State's Attorney Rick Amato questioned Swafford about how long she had known McCullough. Swafford said she never saw McCullough after he finished boot camp, adding she was only 17 at the time and not ready to get serious about the relationship.

Memory expert Nancy Steblay also testified Thursday afternoon to discredit the 2012 testimony of Maria Ridulph's childhood friend Kathy Chapman. The 2012 testimony helped convict McCullough, but Steblay claims too much time had passed from 1957 to 2012 for Chapman to correctly remember the events of the evening. Steblay also claims it would have been too dark that night to positively identify McCullough as the man who kidnapped Ridulph.

McCullough says his memory of the timeline for that night relies on FBI documents.

He says he wants the Certificate of Innocence to clear his name.

McCullough gave an exasperated "no" when asked repeatedly Thursday about what other inmates reported he told them related to Ridulph's death. McCullough continues to deny any involvement in Ridulph's kidnapping and murder.

State's Attorney Rick Amato did not call any witnesses Thursday.

Judge William Brady told the court he is not in a position to make a ruling for the petition Thursday, but allowed both sides to conclude with presentations on McCullough's request. Brady will announce his ruling next Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Follow @WNIJNews for live updates from Susan Stephens who is covering the trial.

  • WNIJ's Susan Stephens, Guy Stephens, and Jessie Schlacks contributed to this report.
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