By James B. Kelleher
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Seattle man accused of killing a young Chicago-area girl five decades ago was arraigned on murder charges in Illinois on Thursday, one day after he was extradited from Washington state,
Jack McCullough, a 71-year-old former police officer, was given a local lawyer during Thursday's brief proceedings in courtroom, the DeKalb county state's attorney's office said. His next hearing is August 8.
McCullough is charged with murdering 7-year-old Maria Ridulph, who disappeared from her home about 50 miles west of Chicago on December 3, 1957. Her remains were found five months later more than 100 miles away.
McCullough, a neighbor of Ridulph's when the abduction occurred, was working as a security guard at a senior community when he was arrested in late June. McCullough has denied the charges and last week he waived his right to challenge extradition.
As he was being transferred to Illinois on Wednesday for his arraignment in DeKalb County Court, investigators were exhuming the Ridulph's remains in a cemetery in Sycamore, Illinois.
Investigators hope modern forensic scientists may be able to uncover DNA evidence from the young girl's remains that could not be detected or analyzed in 1958.
McCullough was arrested on June 29 in Seattle and charged in Washington state court with being a fugitive from justice. He had been held in lieu of $3 million bail in the King County jail.
On July 1, prosecutors in DeKalb County, Illinois, charged him with the girl's murder.
So far, the case against him, as outlined in the charging documents, appears largely circumstantial.
Maria Ridulph's playmate at the time of her disappearance reported that a man named "Johnny" had approached the girls and asked if they wanted piggyback rides.
Later, the friend went home to get her mittens. When she returned, Ridulph and the man were both gone, a probable cause statement filed by Seattle police in conjunction with McCullough's arrest said.
McCullough, then a teenager known as John Tessier, was a suspect in the crime but was not charged at the time. He told police he had been on a train from Rockford to Chicago on the day Ridulph disappeared.
But a woman who had a relationship with McCullough told authorities last year that she had seen the train ticket and it had not been used, court papers said.
The probable cause statement added that investigators tracked down the murder victim's friend last year, and she picked McCullough's photo out of a montage.
McCullough's stepdaughter, Janey O'Connor, 33, said last week that he wanted to return to Illinois because he felt confident he would be found not guilty.
"The sooner he gets to Illinois and gets his trial, the sooner he can come home," she said. McCullough's wife, Susan, did not attend last Friday's extradition hearing.
McCullough's arrest in connection with the Maria Ridulph slaying was not his only brush with the law.
A runaway teenage girl who met McCullough in the early 1980s accused him of sexually assaulting her, the probable cause statement said.
He was ultimately convicted of unlawful communication over his interaction with the girl, and fired from his position with the police department in Milton, Washington, the statement said.
(Additional reporting by Laura L. Myers; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Greg McCune)