It was one of the oldest unsolved crimes in history to go to trial, and now there is an appeal.
In 2012, Jack McCullough was sentenced to life in prison for the 1957 abduction and slaying of Maria Ridulph, a seven-year-old schoolgirl. McCullough allegedly abducted Ridulph from a northern Illinois street, then choked her and stabbed her to death.
But McCullough is saying that the prosecutors relied on fallible recollections from witnesses, in particular the star witness of the trial, Kathy Chapman, who was playing with Ridulph the night she was abducted.
The appeal is 72-pages long and makes the claim that Chapman, who picked out McCullough from an old photograph, could not have had her childhood memories so seared in her mind that she would be able to identify McCullough as the killer five decades later.
“Responsibility for [Ridulph’s] kidnapping, abduction, and murder needed to be proven by competent evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, and not by appeals to sympathy or the romance of the 1950s,” the appeal says, from an article written by The Associated Press.
According to prosecutors, McCullough approached the girls as they were playing on December 3, 1957. When Chapman ran home to get mittens, McCullough dragged Ridulph into an alley, choked her and stabbed her in the throat and chest.
McCullough was a suspect in the 1950s but had an alibi. He said he’d been traveling to and from Chicago to get a medical exam.
How McCullough was eventually arrested is remarkable.
In 2008, police received word from McCullough’s half-sister that McCullough’s mother, on her deathbed in 1994, said that she knew her son had killed Ridulph. That led to charges and an eventual arrest.
The appeal disputes the claim, saying McCullough’s mother could not have been coherent enough to make that statement and if she did make the statement, the appeal disputes the basis in which she could have known the statement was true.
Prosecutors have about 30 days to file a response, after which oral arguments will be scheduled.
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