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Ex-cop convicted in 1957 murder of Illinois girl, 7

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The case was reopened after his old girlfriend contacted police with evidence calling his alibi into question — she had found his unused train ticket from Rockford to Chicago on the day Ridulph disappeared. He was arrested on July 1, 2011, in Washington state at a retirement home where he worked as a security guard.

The trial has been complicated by faded memories and, in McCullough’s case, an absence of physical evidence.

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McCullough waived his right for a jury trial and opted for a bench trial instead.

Among the other state witnesses were inmates jailed with McCullough as he awaited trial.

One said he overheard McCullough say he strangled Ridulph with a wire. Another said McCullough told him he killed her accidentally — that she fell as he gave her a piggyback ride, then smothered her as he tried to stop her from screaming.

Prosecutors say McCullough stabbed the girl in the throat and chest.

In his opening statement, DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell described the night Maria went out to play on a street corner with her friend.

"This ordinary night would end in horror," he said. "It would end with this defendant dumping her body in the cold, dark woods like a piece of garbage."

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