Death of Maria Ridulph

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Maria Ridulph
Born Maria Elizabeth Ridulph
March 12, 1950

December 3, 1957 (aged 7)

Sycamore DeKalb Country, Illinois, U.S.A.
Parents Michael Ridulph (1905-1999)[1]
Frances Ivy Ridulph (1913-2007)[2]

Maria Ridulph was kidnapped on a street corner in Sycamore, Illinois, on December 3, 1957. She was 7 years old at the time.[3] Her body was discovered in a field 5 months later.[3] The case went cold for 55 years until Jack McCullough, formerly John Tessier, was arrested in July 2011.[3] It is believed that the case involved the oldest unsolved murder resulting in an arrest in the United States.[3]


McCullough, then John Tessier,[4] befriended Ridulph in Sycamore, Illinois when she was 7 years old.[3] She disappeared from a street corner in Sycamore on December 3, 1957. According to the prosecutors in his case, McCullough choked Ridulph with a wire and stabbed her.[3] The case received nation-wide interest; the FBI was involved under J. Edgar Hoover[3] and it reportedly received attention from Dwight D. Eisenhower.[4]

The case was reopened when Janet Tessier, McCullough's half sister, believing McCullough was involved, asked the Illinois State Police to look into it.[4] Janet Tessier made the decision to come to the police after spending time as the caretaker to her mother, who confessed on her deathbed that her son, John Tessier, was the perpetrator. Author Mark Lemberger, who wrote "Crimes of Magnitude," a story of an unsolved murder of a seven-year-old girl, upon hearing Janet speak of her mother's deathbed confession, encouraged Tessier to try to contact a law enforcement agency one more time. Tessier did just that, contacting the Illinois State Police via e-mail.[5] McCullough was arrested in a retirement community in Seattle where he lived and worked as a security guard in July 2011.[3][4][6] Ridulph's body was exhumed that same month.[6]


At the trial, Kathy Sigman, a childhood friend who was with Ridulph on the day of her disappearance, testified against McCullough.[4] She said that a man, who called himself Johnny, had walked up to them and had given Ridulph a piggyback ride.[4] Sigman went home briefly to get mittens, and upon her return both Johnny and Maria were gone.[4] Based on a 1957 photo, she identified McCullough as the man who had walked up to them.[4] McCullough was convicted of the crime in September 2012 and later received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 20 years.[3] He was 73 at the time he received his sentence.[3] Although his request for a new trial was denied at the time of sentencing, his appeal continues, as of 2014.[7]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Goode, Erica (December 10, 2012). "55 Years After Girl’s Death, Her Killer Gets a Life Term". New York Times. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Ward, Clifford (December 11, 2012). "Defiant ex-cop gets life for girl's 1957 murder". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  5. ^ Moe, Doug (21 September 2012). "Tragedy leads to answers for family". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Body of girl killed in 1957 exhumed". Telegraph Herald. July 28, 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  7. ^ "Timeline". CNN. August 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 

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