1957 Murder Cold Case Conviction Appealed by Jack McCullough, 74

Image: 1957 Murder Cold Case Conviction Appealed by Jack McCullough, 74

Wednesday, 23 Apr 2014 09:10 AM

By Nick Sanchez

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Jack McCullough was convicted just two years ago for the 1957 abduction and murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in one of the oldest cold cases to ever go to trial, and now the 74-year-old is determined to get the conviction overturned.

CNN reported that McCullough, a former police officer, filed a nearly 80-page appellate brief Thursday in Illinois that claims the evidence used against him was flimsy, and did not prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Among the evidence cited are "personal memories of what occurred 55 years ago; a photo identification made 53 years after the incident; testimony from jailhouse informants; innocuous statements from the defendant; and an improperly admitted and inconclusive statement from the defendant's mother while on morphine and Haldol just before her death."

Chief among McCullough's criticisms is the testimony of Kathy Chapman, who is now in her 60s. Chapman picked out McCullough from an old photograph during the 2012 trial. She said the then-teenage McCullough from the photo was the one who gave her friend Maria a piggyback ride before she disappeared. McCullough and his defenders say it is highly unlikely she could reliably recall such a childhood memory from 55 years ago.

McCullough also took issue with Judge James Hallock's judgements on what constituted as evidence.

He excluded FBI reports from the 1957 kidnapping investigation that documented an alibi for McCullough, and excluded local police detectives' mid-1990s investigation that concluded that another man had committed the crime. The judge also allowed McCullough's sisters testify about a deathbed statement made by their mother through an exception to the hearsay rule.

The sisters said their terminally-ill, cancer-stricken mother, Eileen Tessier, told them "John did it," but gave contradicting testimony as to what "it" was. Tessier herself was heavily sedated at the time, "basically comatose" and often "pleasantly confused" the testimony showed.

State-appointed appellate defender Paul Glaser wrote that, "In a court with murder charges at issue, the law demands more than nostalgia. It demands proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

Maria Ridulph went missing on Dec. 3, 1957, and her body was found the following spring in a grove of trees 120 miles from her home.

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