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Concluding the Coldest of Cold Cases: McCullough Convicted of Murder

It seems the proof of his guilt overcame the glaring inconsistencies and possible defense arguments in the trial of Jack Daniel McCullough, also known as John Tessier. After the judge ruminated on the evidence last night, and closing arguments were made this morning, the judge's verdict came surprisingly quick: McCullough is guilty of murdering 7-year-old Maria Ridulph more than 50 years ago, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The verdict came despite some interesting inconsistencies. Jailhouse informants testified that McCullough told them he strangled the girl with a wire. But the forensic analyst stated that Ridulph died from multiple deep penetrating wounds to her upper chest and neck.

The dying declaration of McCullough's mother, who implicated him for the crime, was also controversial. One of McCullough's sisters testified that their mother simply said "he did it" and inferred that she was talking about McCullough. Another sister stated that their mother explicitly identified her son as the killer.

The case was re-opened after evidence conflicting with McCullough's alibi was discovered in 2010. He previously stated that he was in Chicago for an Air Force physical on the day Ridulph disappeared. But McCullough's ex-girlfriend found an unused train ticket to Chicago from that day. The only remaining proof of his alibi, his Air Force records, were destroyed in a fire. Shortly after the ticket was discovered, a witness identified him more than 50 years after the abduction.

Though defendants typically have the right to a jury trial, this right can be waived. McCullough's defense team chose to waive the jury trial and have the judge act as the decision-maker, likely because the forensic evidence and the risk that the jury would rule on emotion; the now-convicted murderer had previously been convicted of a misdemeanor in the alleged sexual abuse of a teenager.

Jack Daniel McCullough was 17 when Ridulph was murdered. He now potentially faces a sentence of life in prison.

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