The remains of a 7-year-old girl, who was murdered 54 years ago, were exhumed on Wednesday in the hope that modern science and DNA will help scientists examine her remains and solve the case.
"I don't know what we're going to find, but we would be remiss if we didn't make some effort," said DeKalb County prosecutor Clay Campbell, according to ABC News.
Campbell also added that the decision to exhume the body was done after proper consultation with the coroner.
Back in 1957, Maria Ridulph, then seven years old, was abducted a short distance from her Sycamore, Ill. home where she was playing with her friend. Cathy Sigman, Maria's playmate, recalled that a man who called himself "Johnny" came and asked Maria if she wanted a piggy back ride. Cathy went inside to get her mittens but returned to find Maria gone.
The case shocked the entire neighborhood and even drew the attention of President Dwight Eisenhower and erstwhile FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, who asked for daily updates. About 2,000 police officials and community members were involved in the search for Ridulph. Her decomposed body was found in April 1958 in Jo Davies County, about 120 miles from her home.
Jack Daniel McCullough (his name was John Tessier at the time of Ridulph's disappearance) was an initial suspect. However, at the time, he had an alibi and said that he was on a train from Rockford to Chicago after undergoing examinations for determining his eligibility for military service.
Tessier went on to join the military, where he changed his name to Jack McCullough.
It was the ticket that led to the unraveling of the case when McCullough's ex-girlfriend told the police that she had seen the train ticket that had not been used. Investigators then tracked down Cathy Sigman, Maria's playmate at the time of her disappearance, who identified McCullough's photo out of a montage.
McCullough now 71 was arrested on June 29 in Seattle, Wash., and was charged in a Washington state court with being a fugitive from justice. Bail was set at $3 million. On July 1, prosecutors in DeKalb County, Ill. charged him with the murder of 7-year-old Ridulph. On Wednesday, he was removed from King County Jail Court and returned to Illinois.
Exhuming Maria's body brings back many painful memories for her family and friends.
"Although the events are very difficult, and very unsettling, we understand the necessity for these things," said Charles Ridulph, 65, Maria's brother.