Originally published July 1, 2011 at 9:55 PM | Page modified July 2, 2011 at 10:04 AM
Retired cop arrested in 1957 slaying of child
Authorities say an unstamped train ticket found among an ex-girlfriend's belongings unraveled a half-century-old alibi and led to the arrest of a Seattle man in connection with the slaying of a 7-year-old Illinois girl in 1957.
Christine Clarridge and Mike Carter
Seattle Times staff reporters
Jack Daniels McCullough, 71, is being held in King County Jail in lieu of $3 million bail and is awaiting extradition to Illinois, according to a statement by the Dekalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell. He has been charged with murder in the death of Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, Ill.
McCullough, who changed his name from John Tessier in 1994, is a longtime Washington state resident who served as a police officer in Lacey and Milton, according to a document of probable cause. When he was arrested this week, he was working as the night watchman at The Four Freedoms House of Seattle, a 300-unit retirement home in North Seattle, where he lived with his wife.
The disappearance of Maria Ridulph in December 1957 terrorized the community of Sycamore, about 70 miles west of Chicago, and shocked the nation. Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and President Dwight D. Eisenhower both took an active interest in the case, according to reports.
Maria's 8-year-old friend said the two girls had been playing in a neighbor's front yard when a man named "Johnny" came up and asked to give them a piggyback ride. The friend went inside for a moment, and when she returned, Maria was gone.
Maria's decomposed body was found five months later about 100 miles from her home.
McCullough, who was 18 at the time, was an early suspect but had an alibi, claiming he had been in Chicago when Maria was abducted. The case went cold after he joined the military.
The investigation was reopened last year, according to court documents filed in King County District Court, when police re-interviewed a woman who dated McCullough at the time of the abduction.
The document of probable cause revealed that when investigators last year asked McCullough's ex-girlfriend to look for pictures and other items from their time together, she found an unused and unstamped train ticket from Rockford, Ill., to Chicago.
McCullough had claimed he'd taken the train from Rockford to Chicago on the day of the abduction to enlist in the military, according to the document, which was mistakenly left unsealed and reviewed by a Seattle Times reporter who was not allowed to make a copy.
The unused ticket, dated on the day the girl went missing, poked holes in McCullough's alibi, according to court documents, and refocused attention on McCullough.
"He had been a very good suspect in the beginning. He lived about a block and half away from the victim, he fit the description and his clothes matched, but he had an alibi that he was someplace else," said Donald Thomas, chief of the Sycamore Police Department. "Once his alibi crumbled, we found about a dozen other facts that helped us build our case."
Court documents say investigators discovered that a collect phone call purportedly made by McCullough to his ex-girlfriend from Chicago was actually made from his own home in Sycamore on the day of the girl's abduction. They also discovered he had given a ride to a family member at a time when he should have been on the train, court documents say.
After McCullough got out of the military, he became an officer at the police departments in Lacey and Milton, according to the court documents.
According to the document of probable cause, McCullough was dismissed from the Milton Police Department after he allegedly sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl. It wasn't immediately clear whether he was ever prosecuted. No one could be reached at the Milton Police Department to confirm his employment.
Dawn Gothro, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Retirement Systems, said McCullough, using the name John Tessier, had withdrawn from Washington state's police pension system in April 1976.
News of his arrest was met with shock and disbelief among residents at The Four Freedoms House of Seattle.
Gaylee Shelton, 73, said McCullough and his wife were well-known throughout the community. He was a "nice guy" who held a disaster-preparedness seminar for residents after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
"In all my life, I never would have guessed," said Rena Rooney, 88, looking over a copy of a brief news article detailing the charges in Illinois. "It's such a shame. He was so good to us."
LINK TO PHOTOS:
June 2021 May 2021 April 2021 March 2021 February 2021 January 2021 December 2020 November 2020 October 2020 September 2020 August 2020 July 2020 June 2020 May 2020 April 2020 March 2020 February 2020 January 2020 December 2019 November 2019 October 2019 September 2019 August 2019 July 2019 June 2019 May 2019 April 2019 March 2019 February 2019 January 2019 December 2018 November 2018 October 2018 September 2018 August 2018 July 2018 June 2018 May 2018 April 2018 March 2018 February 2018 January 2018 December 2017 November 2017 October 2017 September 2017 August 2017 July 2017 June 2017 May 2017 April 2017 March 2017 February 2017 January 2017 December 2016 November 2016 October 2016 September 2016 August 2016 July 2016 June 2016 May 2016 April 2016 March 2016 February 2016 January 2016 December 2015 November 2015 October 2015 September 2015 August 2015 July 2015 June 2015 May 2015 April 2015 March 2015 February 2015 January 2015 December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008