It is a sad state of affairs when one who is innocent is wrongly convicted of a crime and sentenced to the rest of his life behind bars, especially when there is substantial evidence proving the person is not guilty which was simply not released during trial. But, this is exactly what happened to a Washington state resident who has filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit now that he is a free man against state and local authorities, alleging he was framed for the 1957 abduction and murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, Illinois.
McCullough was originally convicted of the crime on September 14, 2012 by Kane County Associate Judge James Hallock and subsequently sentenced to life in prison. Judge William Brady determined McCullough was innocent on April 1, 2016, however, after a prosecutor indicated evidence exists which backs the man’s alibi that he had been 40 miles away when the girl disappeared. This evidence is connected to phone calls placed by McCullough at the time of the crime, which were not originally released during the murder trial. McCullough was set free following the overturned conviction.
McCullough’s complaint has been filed in federal court in Rockford, Illinois. It accuses the city of Sycamore, the state and Seattle police of working together to frame McCullough for the girl’s untimely death, locking him up when he should have been a free man. McCullough’s attorney, Russell Ainsworth, a Chicago based lawyer at the civil rights firm Loevy & Loevy said “It’s been a year since Jack was released from prison, and we wanted to get justice for Jack. He’s 77 years old. He can’t wait forever.”
McCollough’s lawsuit names 15 defendants in total across states, including all of the following: DeKalb County, the city of Sycamore, former DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell and assistant state’s attorneys Victor Escarcida and Julie Trevarthen, Sycamore police officers Daniel Hoffman and Tiffany Ziegler, and Illinois State Police Special Agent Brion Hanley. Hanley was named the Illinois State Police’s “Officer of the Year” in 2013 for his work on the case. McCollough’s lawsuit lists Seattle police detectives and the city of Seattle as well. He is seeking unspecified compensatory damages and attorney fees.
The filing states, “Although exonerated, Mr. McCullough must now attempt to resume his life despite the horrors he endured while imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Plaintiff was due to retire, but those efforts have been hampered by his wrongful conviction. In addition, Plaintiff has lost the precious time to be with his family, and watch his grandchildren age—something he can never get back.” McCullough accuses the officers and prosecutors associated with the case of falsifying and attempting to hide pertinent evidence. He accuses those involved of manipulating facts to explain away clear reasons why he could not be involved and says authorities created a biased photo lineup which led to his false identification by one witness on the case, Kathy Sigman. Kathy was herself a child at the time and was playing with Ridulph the night of her kidnapping. McCollough’s attorney claims investigators and prosecutors ignored the fact that the FBI had ruled McCullough out as a suspect in its initial investigation in the 1950s and proceeded with the trial despite this ruling.