Judge orders man held over girl's 1957 disappearance

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 02, 2011 8:03 PM
Judge orders man held over girl's 1957 disappearance

By Laura Myers

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A judge on Saturday ordered a Seattle man now in a local hospital held without bond after his arrest in connection with the disappearance of a 7-year-old girl from a town in Illinois 54 years ago.

At a brief hearing, King County District Court Judge Eileen Kato said she found "probable cause" to detain Jack Daniel McCullough, and set a bail hearing for Monday.

The judge said McCullough, who did not attend the hearing, was at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. His illness was not disclosed.

McCullough, now 71, was arrested in Seattle in connection with the disappearance of Maria Ridulph, who was last seen playing with a friend near their homes in Sycamore, Illinois on December 3, 1957, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Her decomposed body was found on April 26, 1958, in Jo Daviess County, Illinois, the Tribune said.

McCullough was a teenager at the time of the disappearance and had been a suspect in the crime, but had an alibi and was never charged. McCullough has also used the name John Tessier.

Four family members of McCullough, including two stepdaughters whose names were not available, niece Jennifer Howton and another niece also not named, each casually dressed, attended the hearing on Saturday. They did not speak in court although one did briefly speak with a television journalist.

Outside the courtroom, a man who identified himself as a boyfriend of one of the stepdaughters told reporters that McCullough had triple bypass surgery a few years ago.

"He's looking at losing everything," the man said, adding that he did not think police had the evidence to convict him.

McCullough was arrested on Wednesday afternoon and booked into King County jail early on Thursday, the family friend said.

The state of Illinois was seeking a $3 million bond although McCullough was currently being held as a fugitive on a "no bail hold," Denny Behrend, the Seattle bail bondsman, told Reuters.

McCullough had worked for the Milton, Washington police department, the family friend said. He was discharged from the police department job after being convicted of having sex with a 13-year-old girl in the mid 1980s, the Tribune said.

McCullough has been married for about 20 years and has three grandchildren, the family friend said. More recently, he worked as a night security guard at a Seattle area retirement complex, he said.

McCullough always insisted that he had been on a train from Rockford to Chicago and could not have abducted Ridulph. But a former girlfriend last year told authorities she had seen the train ticket and it was not used. The tip prompted police to continue the investigation, which led them to McCullough, the Tribune said.

The family friend said he thought the person who tipped off police to McCullough "is an estranged wife who hates his guts. It's someone he's had a relationship with for a long time."

It is unusual for a case so old to be revived, especially without evidence such as DNA uncovered through forensic techniques not available a half century ago.

(Editing by Greg McCune and Cynthia Johnston)