Trial begins in Illinois girl's 1957 killing

Associated Press Modified: September 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm •  Published: September 10, 2012
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SYCAMORE, Ill. (AP) — The murder of a 7-year-old Illinois girl that haunted the nation more than 50 years ago went to trial Monday, starting with a prosecutor accusing the defendant of discarding the body like "a piece of garbage."

Jack McCullough, 72 and a former Washington state police officer, has pleaded not guilty to the 1957 kidnapping and slaying of Maria Ridulph, of Sycamore. It's one of the oldest cold-case murders brought to trial in the United States.

Maria's friend, Kathy Sigman, told authorities that a young man calling himself "Johnny" had approached them while they were playing outside on Dec. 3, 1957, and offered to give the girls piggyback rides. Sigman left to get mittens and when she returned, Maria and the man were gone.

Prosecutors say McCullough, whose name was John Tessier in the 1950s, was "Johnny."

"This ordinary night would end in horror," said DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell. "It would end with this defendant dumping her body in the cold, dark woods like a piece of garbage."

Ridulph's abduction captured national attention, and even then-President Dwight Eisenhower asked to be kept up-to-date. Her badly decomposed body was found months later 120 miles away from Sycamore.

Forensics examinations indicate that Ridulph was stabbed at least three times in the throat and the chest, prosecutors said Monday.

The slain girl's friend, now in her 60s, is expected to be called to the stand to identify McCullough, who was arrested last year in Seattle and brought to Illinois.

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