By James B. Kelleher
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Seattle man accused of killing a young Chicago-area girl five decades ago was back in Illinois on Wednesday as investigators exhumed the child's remains in search of forensic evidence to help convict him.
Jack McCullough, 71, a former police officer in Washington state, last week waived his right to challenge extradition. He was in custody in Illinois by Wednesday afternoon, said Monique Bond, the chief spokesman for Illinois State Police.
McCullough's return came as investigators were unearthing the remains of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, Illinois, not far from where she disappeared in 1957. Ridulph's remains were found the following year more than 100 miles away.
Investigators hope modern-day forensic scientists may be able to uncover DNA evidence from the young girl's remains that could not be detected or analyzed back in 1958.
McCullough was arrested on June 29 in Seattle and charged in Washington state court with being a fugitive from justice. He had been held in lieu of $3 million bail in the King County jail.
On July 1, prosecutors in DeKalb County, Illinois, charged him with the girl's murder. Bond said McCullough would appear before a judge in DeKalb County for a bond hearing on Thursday.
So far, the case against him, as outlined in the charging documents, appears largely circumstantial.
Maria Ridulph's playmate at the time of her disappearance reported that a man named "Johnny" had approached the girls and asked if they wanted piggyback rides.
Later, the friend went home to get her mittens. When she returned, Ridulph and the man were both gone, a probable cause statement filed by Seattle police in conjunction with McCullough's arrest said.
McCullough, then a teenager known as John Tessier, was a suspect in the crime but was not charged at the time. He told police he had been on a train from Rockford to Chicago on the day Ridulph disappeared.
But a woman who had a relationship with McCullough told authorities last year that she had seen the train ticket and it had not been used, court papers said.
The probable cause statement added that investigators tracked down the murder victim's friend last year, and she picked McCullough's photo out of a montage.
McCullough's stepdaughter, Janey O'Connor, 33, said last week that he wanted to return to Illinois because he felt confident he would be found not guilty.
"The sooner he gets to Illinois and gets his trial, the sooner he can come home," she said. McCullough's wife, Susan, did not attend last Friday's extradition hearing.
McCullough's arrest in connection with the Maria Ridulph slaying was not his only brush with the law.
A runaway teenage girl who met McCullough in the early 1980s accused him of sexually assaulting her, the probable cause statement said.
He was ultimately convicted of unlawful communication over his interaction with the girl, and fired from his position with the police department in Milton, Washington, the statement said.
(Additional reporting by Laura L. Myers; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)