After more than half a century from the kidnapping of his sister, Charles “Chuck” Ridulph was informed that a former police officer was charged with the murder and kidnapping of Maria Ridulph. “I just can’t believe that after all these years they’d be able to find this guy,” Chuck Ridulph told The Associated Press.
A 65-year-old minister who mainly serves his area’s senior citizens, Ridulph once shared a bedroom with his sister and already has his headstone placed on a burial plot next to her grave. With McCullough’s arrest, he worries about a drawn-out legal process that will dredge up bad memories but also perhaps answer some nagging, stomach-churning questions about what happened to the little girl who loved to play dress up.
Maria disappeared Dec. 3, 1957, while doing what kids in Sycamore did then — playing. Maria’s friend, Kathy Chapman, who was 8 at the time, recalled that she and Maria were under a corner streetlight when a young man she knew as “Johnny” offered them a piggyback ride. Chapman, now 61 and living in St. Charles, Ill., told the AP she ran home to get mittens and that when she returned, Maria and the man were gone.
The search for Maria grew to involve more than 1,000 law enforcement officers and numerous other community members, ultimately catching the eye of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who requested daily updates.
Jack Daniel McCullough, 71, has been held in Seattle on $3 million bail.
Police suspected McCullough, who lived less than two blocks from the Ridulphs and who fit the description of the man said to have approached the girls, Thomas said Friday. But McCullough seemed to have an alibi, claiming he took the train from Rockford to Chicago the day of the abduction.
His story fell apart last year after investigators reinterviewed a woman who dated him in 1957 and asked her to search through some personal items, the Seattle Times reported, citing court documents. She found an unused train ticket from Rockford to Chicago dated the day the girl went missing.
“Once his alibi crumbled, we found about a dozen other facts that helped us build our case,” Thomas said.
The Times reported investigators also determined a collect phone call McCullough purportedly made to his then-girlfriend from Chicago actually came from his Sycamore home the day Maria vanished — and he gave a ride to a relative when he should have been on the train.
Ridulph doesn’t believe a conviction will bring closure or help the town heal.
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