- Marionville mayor ‘kind of agreed’ with Kansas City shooter’s views
- Rev. Al Sharpton’s Easter message: Politically ‘crucified’ Obama has risen again
- Supreme Court to weigh challenge to ban on campaign lies
- UNICEF launches ‘Mr. Poo’ mascot in India to curb public defecation
- Teen taking selfie by train: ‘Wow, that guy just kicked me in the head’
- Goodbye, Afghanistan — hello, Africa: Air Force to shift as U.S. exits Middle East
- Iran mulls ban on vasectomies, decrease on abortions to bolster population
- CNN op-ed claims right-wingers ‘more deadly than jihadists’
- Classes resume at high school rocked by stabbings
- ABC News accuses Center for Public Integrity of stealing Pulitzer-winning work
Washington state man gets life for 1957 slaying of Illinois girl
SYCAMORE, Ill. (AP) — A former Washington state policeman convicted of kidnapping and murdering a young Illinois girl more than a half-century ago was sentenced Monday to life in prison.
Jack McCullough, 73, was convicted in September in one of the oldest unsolved crimes in American history to make it to trial. Life in prison was the maximum sentence he faced.
The sentencing took place in Sycamore, the small community where 7-year-old Maria Ridulph was abducted and killed in December 1957. Like McCullough's trial, it was expected to be emotional for members of Maria's and McCullough's families, as well as for 63-year-old Kathy Chapman, a childhood friend of Maria's who was with her until moments before she was abducted.
Judge James Hallock admonished an unrepentant McCullough for turning to face Maria's family and friends as he spoke before sentencing. The judge ordered McCullough to face the bench, but McCullough kept pivoting toward the gallery.
"I did not, did not, kill Maria Ridulph," said McCullough, who grew up in Sycamore. "It was a crime I did not, would not, could not have done."
He pointed to a box that he said contained 4,000 pages of FBI documents. The defense argued during the trial that the material supported McCullough's alibi that he was not in Sycamore the day of the crime, but Judge Hallock ruled it inadmissible because the people in the documents were dead and could not be cross-examined.
McCullough's attorney said that ruling likely will be part of an appeal.
Before the sentencing, a prosecutor, Victor Escarcida, said that McCullough had "left a lifetime of emotional wreckage in his wake."
"Jack McCullough made Sycamore a scary place," Mr. Escarcida said. "Now there was a true boogeyman living among them. He is the definition of evil."
Prosecutors contended that on Dec. 3, 1957, a 17-year-old McCullough, known then as John Tessier, approached Maria and Ms. Chapman in front of Maria's house and played with them for a while.
When Ms. Chapman ran home to get her mittens, prosecutors said, McCullough dragged Maria into an alley and choked her with a wire, then stabbed her in the throat and chest. Then, they said, he loaded her body into his car and drove more than 100 miles to where he disposed of her body in a wooded area.
Maria's disappearance drew national attention during a massive, months-long search before her body was found the following April. Reportedly, President Dwight Eisenhower and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover asked for regular updates on the case.
McCullough was one of more than 100 people who were briefly suspects, but he had what seemed like a solid alibi. On the day the girl vanished, he told investigators, he had been traveling to Chicago for a medical exam before joining the Air Force.
McCullough eventually settled in Seattle, working as a Washington state police officer.
Ultimately, members of his own family helped convict him. During the trial, Janet Tessier, McCullough's half-sister, described McCullough's mother making incriminating comments about McCullough on her deathbed in 1994. The mother acknowledged that she had lied to police when she supported McCullough's alibi.
Once a new investigation was launched, authorities went to Ms. Chapman, Maria's childhood friend, and showed her an old photograph if McCullough. A half-century later, she identified him as the teenager who came up to them that snowy day and introduced himself as "Johnny."
McCullough did not testify.
TWT Video Picks
By Andrew P. Napolitano
Easter symbolizes the freedom to choose eternal life
- 'Culture of intimidation' seen in Nevada ranch standoff
- Rand and Ron Paul ride to the rescue for Bundy in Nevada standoff with feds
- Nevada Bundy ranch standoff could leave dirt on Harry Reid reputation
- WEBER: Obamacare cuts home healthcare for millions of seniors
- Atheists rush to stage Easter display: 'Jesus Christ is a myth'
- Fuel-filled wings, ability to swarm: Pentagon offers glimpse at future of drone fleet
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- CARSON: Recovering Tocqueville's vision of American exceptionalism
- GOP writes legislation to deny Attorney General Eric Holder his salary
- UNICEF launches 'Mr. Poo' mascot in India to curb public defecation
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.