Train ticket could solve 50-year Maria Ridulph murder mystery
By Jon Swaine, New York
4:30PM BST 03 Jul 2011A 54-year mystery surrounding the abduction and murder of young girl Maria Ridulph in the US may be resolved after the alibi of a key surviving suspect was undone by the discovery of an unused train ticket.
The disappearance of Maria Ridulph in December 1957 gripped America, with President Dwight Eisenhower and J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, demanding daily updates on a 2,000-man search. Maria was taken while playing near her home in Sycamore, 55 miles west of Chicago, Illinois. Her body was eventually found five months later by mushroom foragers more than 100 miles away.
Her friend Kathy Sigman told police that Maria had been talking to a man called Johnny, who asked if he could give her a piggyback ride. The friend went inside and when she returned, Maria had gone. John Tessier, a local 18-year-old matching the friend's description, was questioned. But he told police he was in Chicago on the day of the abduction. He joined the Air Force and drifted out of suspicion.
But last year police re-interviewed the then-girlfriend of Mr Tessier, who changed his name to Jack Daniels McCullough and is now 71. She was asked to look for a photo of the pair together at the time. She "retrieved a photo in a frame," according to an affidavit filed to court by police in Seattle, Washington state, where Mr McCullough now lives. "When she pulled the photo out, she discovered an unused train ticket from Rockford to Chicago that John had given her from the date of this crime," police said.
Police also tracked down Maria's friend Kathy Sigman, who is now in her 60s, and showed her five pictures of young men – four taken from an old high school year book, and one of Mr McCullough. "That's him," she said of Mr McCullough, according to the affidavit. "She placed her hands over head, let out a big breath, and then said, 'To the best of my memory and recollection of that night, that's him'."
Donald Thomas, the Sycamore police chief, said in light of the new evidence and an interview with Mr McCullough, "we were able to determine he was the person who had killed Maria Ridulph". Mr McCullough, who went on to work as a police officer, marry and have children and grandchildren, was arrested and charged with murder last week. A judge in Seattle ordered him detained on Saturday. He was in hospital and did not attend the hearing. A woman who said she was his niece told reporters: "My uncle is a wonderful and kind and loving person. That's all I know". A bail hearing is expected today.
Mr McCullough was fired from his police job after admitting a charge "unlawful communication" over the alleged sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in 1983, according to court documents...