Man wrongfully convicted of murder seeks 'Certificate of Innocence'

FOX 32 NEWS - Dramatic testimony was heard Thursday from the man who was wrongfully convicted of killing a little girl in a cold case going back to 1957, and he's still fighting to clear his name.

“I have been put forward as a monster, and people still believe I am a monster,” said Jack McCullough.

Jack McCullough, 77, was in a DeKalb County courtroom seeking a Certificate of Innocence. It would allow him to sue the state for about $85k for the nearly five years he spent in prison.

“I am innocent. Proven innocent. And I want my name back. My name has been seen in all the papers. Coast to Coast,” said McCullough.

The former police officer and military veteran was convicted in 2012 for murdering 7-year-old Maria Ridulph of Sycamore back in 1957. Her disappearance received national attention, even FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover took an interest.

Maria's body was found 120 miles from Sycamore four months after she disappeared. McCullough was arrested after a tip from one of his sisters re-opened the case decades later. But last April, a new state's attorney, Richard Schmack, concluded that McCullough was in Rockford, not Sycamore, when the crime was committed. McCullough was set free. His conviction was based in part on prison inmates who claimed he had confessed to them.

The current state's attorney, Rick Amato, argued that while McCullough is innocent, some of his own statements led to his conviction, and under the law, that means he can't be eligible for a certificate of innocence. McCullough, though, says he wants to be declared innocent now.

“I want it to end here, what was done to me was criminal. They knew I was innocent, they put me in prison anyway,” McCullough said.

Judge William Brady told both parties to come up with a date in the next week or so when they can come back, and he'll issue his ruling from the bench.

The Certificate of Innocence allows a wrongfully convicted defendant to sue the state, without the delay of waiting for an official pardon from the governor.