It was a cold case murder that took more than 50 years to solve. But now the Dekalb County state's attorney says the man convicted for murdering a seven year old Sycamore girl in 1957 should be freed.
Jack McCullough, 76, has been in prison since that 2012 conviction. Dekalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack said he deserves to be a free man.
"I believe that it was an injustice," Schmack said.
In 2012, Schmack's predecessor convicted McCullough in the 1957 kidnapping and murder of Maria Ridulph, 7, who disappeared while playing with a friend just outside her home in Sycamore. Her body was later found near Galena.
Schmack says he's uncovered new evidence that McCullough was in downtown Rockford at the time of the girl's disappearance. Phone records showing he made a collect call to his parents from the Rockford post office, 35 miles from the crime scene.
"You can't be in Sycamore kidnapping somebody at 6:30 and be at the downtown post office in Rockford at 6:50," Schmack said. "You can't be in two places at once and that's why the FBI and the Illinois State Police in 1957 cleared him of involvement in the case."
But Ridulph's relatives are not buying it.
"There's no doubt in my mind," said brother Charles Ridulph.
Charles says the decision is a painful blow to his family. He believes the prosecutor is ignoring mouintains of other evidence pointing at mccullough and questions the timeline.
"His time frame makes absolutely no sense. His assumption is that Maria was kidnapped well after 6:30 and that is an impossibility," he said. "He is acting as a defense attorney in partnership with the defense attorney. And where does that leave us as the victims in this?Who is speaking for us?"
Schmack says he knows it's a blow to the Ridulph family, but he has no choice.
"This was about my ethical obligation to do what was right, and it's probably not going to be good for my re-election chances regardless of what anybody thinks. But I had to do what was right," Schmack said.
McCullough has been serving his sentence at the downstate Pontiac Correctional Facility. On Tuesday, he'll appear at the Dekalb County Courthouse where the state's attorney will ask a judge to drop his conviction.
The Illinois State Police played an important role in providing evidence for McCullough's conviction. They released a statement saying they stand by their investigation.