Illinois woman testifies in 1957 murder of childhood friend

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SYCAMORE, Ill. — An Illinois woman finally got the chance Tuesday to identify in court a photo of the man she believes kidnapped and killed her childhood friend 55 years ago.

Kathy Chapman, now in her mid-60s, testified against Jack McCullough, 72, a former Washington state police officer who has pleaded not guilty to abducting and killing 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in the winter of 1957.

With the defendant sitting across the courtroom, a prosecutor laid out a half-dozen black and white pictures of similar looking men. Chapman proceeded to pick out one of a young McCullough, who in the 1950s went by the name John Tessier.

“This photo, right there,” a sometimes emotional Chapman told the DuPage County courtroom.

She said a man who called himself “Johnny” approached the girls as they played near their homes Dec. 3, 1957.

“He asked if we liked dolls and would we like a piggyback ride?” Chapman told the court.

Chapman said she saw the man give her friend a ride, and then Maria ran home and brought back a doll. Chapman went home to grab mittens and returned to find her friend and the man gone.

Ridulph’s badly decomposed body was found in the spring of 1958 about 120 miles from Sycamore. Prosecutors said the girl had been stabbed in the throat and chest at least three times.

McCullough lived a few blocks from the Ridulph family home and was a suspect. But he said he’d traveled to Chicago that day for a medical exam before enlisting in the Air Force.

Investigators reopened the case after McCullough’s former girlfriend told them she found his unused train ticket from Rockford to Chicago from the day Maria vanished.

The defense has opted for a bench trial, meaning a judge will decide the verdict.

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