Son of man recently convicted in 50-year-old murder: 'I'm still shocked'on December 13, 2012 @ 11:37 am (Updated: 12:43 pm - 12/13/12 )
"I'm still in shock. This whole thing is just too crazy for me," says Sean Tessier, the son of Jack McCullough, 73, who was convicted in September in one of the oldest unsolved crimes in American history to make it to trial.
McCullough was convicted in the murder of Maria Ridulph, a 7-year-old last seen playing with a friend on Dec. 3 in Sycamore, Ill. in 1957, before she was grabbed, choked and stabbed to death in an alley. Her body was found months later, dumped in woods more than 100 miles away.
Tessier tells KIRO Radio's Ross and Burbank Show that he first learned of his father's potential involvement in the crime when his uncle approached him at a family reunion.
"My uncle and I were alone, and he was toying with it. He didn't know if he should do this. He said that, 'I don't know if I should be telling you this, but I'm going to go ahead and do it.' And he told me," says Tessier. "I was floored."
The investigation into the case had been reopened in 2008. Tessier's uncle told him that the police had been questioning the family.
McCullough was one of more than 100 people who were briefly suspects in the original investigation, but he had what seemed like a solid alibi. He told investigators on the day Ridulph vanished he'd been traveling to Chicago for a medical exam before joining the Air Force.
McCulllough spent years in the military, first in the Air Force and then in the Army. He eventually settled in Seattle, working as a Washington state police officer.
McCullough might have lived out his life quietly, but on her deathbed in 1994, his mother told McCullough's half-sister, Janet Tessier, that she'd lied to police when she supported her son's alibi.
Another break in the case came when investigators were interviewing McCullough's high school girlfriend. Tessier says the woman pulled out an old photograph and as she took it from the frame, behind the picture they found an unused train ticket from the day of the murder.
Police also brought an image of McCullough to the little girl that had been playing with Ridulph on the day she went missing. The woman, Kathy Chapman, now 63, told authorities that she recognized McCullough as the man that had approached them that day offering them piggy back rides. McCullough was 17 at the time.
Tessier says he doesn't think his father was expecting authorities to reopen the investigation.
"I don't think he saw this coming. He didn't know there was an investigation pending. It was probably out of the blue to him."
While the case and his father's involvement was a shock to Tessier, he tells Ross and Burbank he believes other members of his family likely suspected his father all along. To him it's still hard to comprehend.
"I worshiped him when I was a kid. How could you not? Mr. Army guy and a police officer," says Tessier. "The family is so great. I come from good stock [...] How this happened, how this came out of him, I don't know."
McCullough still maintains his innocence.
"I did not, did not, kill Maria Ridulph," said McCullough. "It was a crime I did not, would not, could not have done."
His attorneys had argued during the trial that the material supported McCullough's alibi, but the judge ruled it inadmissible because the people in the documents were dead and could not be cross-examined. McCullough's attorneys have said there will be an appeal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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