|FILE - In this March 29, 2016, file photo, Jack McCullough appears in court for a hearing on his petition for post-conviction relief at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore, Ill. McCullough, who a prosecutor says was wrongly convicted in the abduction and killing of a 7-year-old Illinois schoolgirl in 1957 will be released from prison, a judge ordered Friday, April 15, 2016. (Danielle Guerra/Daily Chronicle via AP, File) MANDATORY CREDIT, CHICAGO TRIBUNE OUT(/Daily Chronicle via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT; CHICAGO TRIBUNE OUT|
An Illinois judge vacated the conviction of a 76-year-old man in a 1957 killing and ordered his immediate release from prison Friday [Apr 15], meaning that one of the oldest cold cases to be tried in U.S. history has officially gone cold again.
Jack McCullough was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 in the death of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, about 70 miles west of Chicago. In a review of documents last year, a prosecutor found evidence that supported the former policeman's long-held alibi that he had been 40 miles away in Rockford at the time of Maria's disappearance.
Judge William P. Brady said Friday that he knew Maria's murder had haunted the small town of Sycamore for decades, and that he had also lost sleep over the case.
"I'm not blind to the importance of this proceeding to many people," he said, minutes before ordering McCullough's release.
McCullough, in handcuffs, appeared shaken by the decision, rocking back and forth, then taking a deep breath. Family members behind him hugged and cried. Moments later, McCullough, of Washington state, looked back and smiled broadly.
On the other side of the room, Maria's brother and sister displayed little emotion.
Brady said McCullough would be released Friday.
- via AP