Was There a Rush to Convict in Nation’s Oldest Cold Case?


Photo Courtesy: DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department

I want all of those who commit violent crimes, particularly those who harm children and others who are the most innocent among us, to be held accountable for their actions. But, I also want to know that the justice that they face is done fairly and that guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, as our legal system demands. I read about a man convicted in 2012 of a decades-old cold case for whom it seems a verdict and sentence was handed down with too many questions remaining.

Jack Daniel McCullough was convicted in September 2012 for the kidnapping and murder of Maria Ridulph back in 1957, making it our nation’s oldest cold case to be solved. The crime occurred in Sycamore, Illinois while the seven-year-old girl was out playing with a friend in the snow. Her body was not found until the following spring. I can only imagine what Maria’s family and that entire town went through first not knowing where the little girl was and then making that awful discovery.

McCullough has now filed an appeal, stating that much of the evidence that would exonerate him was not allowed to be introduced at trial. His alibi of being miles away with military recruiter, the police interviews done decades ago, and the determination by an investigator about twenty years ago that another man, since deceased, had committed the crime were all deemed inadmissible because the members of law enforcement associated with these details had all since passed away and would not be able to provide affirming witness testimony.

On the other side of the courtroom, Mc Cullough argues that his mother’s deathbed confession of her son’s guilt was vague and not reliable as she was heavily medicated and confused. And the girl with whom Maria was playing that day did not identify a photograph of McCullough as the assailant until more than five decades after the crime was committed.

I encourage you to check out the entire piece about McCullough’s appeal and read some other articles on the case. It is a really thought-provoking situation that weighs our justifiable anger at crimes against children with the need to make sure we have all the facts and rights to the accused are afforded in full. It is very likely that McCullough did murder this young girl—there is evidence to support it—but his appeal arguments are compelling as well.


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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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1 Response to Was There a Rush to Convict in Nation’s Oldest Cold Case?

  1. Christina Carson says:

    Were I on the ensuing jury, I would find it impossible to convict with such big pieces of evidence that would have been included early, not now included. I have to admit, I have never been able, in my mind, to agree with the withholding of evidence. The system often seems more geared to following the rules than doing everything in everyone’s power to insure a rightful verdict. Interesting case here, Jennifer.


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