By Elaine Porterfield
SEATTLE (Reuters) - A Seattle man suspected of the 1957 abduction and murder of young Chicago-area girl pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to a charge of being a fugitive from justice but remained in custody in Washington state.
Jack Daniel McCullough, 71, a former police officer for the cities of Lacey and Milton in Washington state, was arrested last week in connection with the 54-year-old murder case at the request of Illinois authorities.
His not guilty plea was entered on his behalf by his lawyer during a brief proceeding in a courtroom at the King County Jail, where he is incarcerated. McCullough himself was not present for the hearing.
A hearing on the fugitive charge was set for July 20 in King County. He was charged separately on July 1 in DeKalb County, Illinois, with the murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph some 54 years ago.
The little girl was last seen playing with a friend near their homes in the Chicago suburb of Sycamore, Illinois, on December 3, 1957, according to court papers.
Her decomposed body was found on April 26, 1958, in Jo Daviess County, Illinois.
McCullough has always maintained he is innocent and 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 had not been used.
Janey O'Connor, a stepdaughter of McCullough, attended the court hearing on Wednesday.
"I know he didn't do it," she said. "He's an honest, honorable, outstanding man."
(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Steve Gorman and Greg McCune)