Closings Friday in murder trial over Sycamore girl's 1957 slaying

HomicideJustice SystemCrime, Law and JusticeSycamoreDeKalbCancer

Both sides rested today in the trial of Jack McCullough following testimony of a jail inmate who said the former Sycamore resident incriminated himself in the 1957 murder of a young girl.

Judge James Hallock ordered defense attorneys and prosecutors back Friday morning for closing arguments in the bench trial.
 
Hallock said he would spend the afternoon and evening reviewing his notes, fueling conjecture he would issue his ruling Friday.

McCullough, 72, is on trial at the DeKalb County courthouse on charges that as a 17-year-old he kidnapped and murdered Maria Ridulph, 7, of Sycamore.

The final major prosecution witness was Kirk Swaggerty, a convicted murderer who was in the DeKalb County Jail with McCullough in 2011.

Swaggerty testified that McCullough spoke of accidentally suffocating Maria on Dec. 3, 1957.

“He said he was giving her a piggyback ride on his shoulders and when she fell she wouldn't stop screaming, and when she wouldn't keep quiet he suffocated her,” Swaggerty said.

Maria was last seen on a corner near her Sycamore home by a playmate who testified that a man named Johnny approached them and gave Maria a piggyback ride.

Swaggerty was the third jail inmate to testify against McCullough.

Under cross-examination, Swaggerty acknowledged that he has filed a motion seeking a reduced sentence. He was sentenced last year to 33 years in prison for planning a home invasion and robbery in which one person was killed.

Swaggerty said he did not contact authorities because he expected any reward.

“I really wanted to do something right,” he said. “I’m going to die in prison. I just felt like I should do it.”

McCullough's sister Mary Hunt was the first defense witness, and gave a less definitive account of a comment reportedly made by her mother, Eileen Tessier, as she lay dying of cancer in January 1994.

Another sister, Janet Tessier, testified earlier this week that their mother made an explicit reference to McCullough being involved in Maria’s disappearance.

Hunt, however, testified she recalled that her mother only said, “he did it,” without providing other context.

Under cross-examination by prosecutors, though, Hunt said she knew what her mother meant.

Defense attorneys also called a doctor who did surgery on the mother.
 
In exam notes he made before a surgery to install a drug shunt, the surgeon described Eileen Tessier as “pleasantly confused.” The doctor, who is now retired, said he had no independent recollection of treating Tessier.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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