Man freed in girl's one thousand nine hundred fifty-seven slaying speaks of prison, future

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Source:   —  April 19, 2016, at 6:03 AM

Multiple inmates had vowed to murder him to avenge Maria Ridulph, he said in phone interviews Sun and Monday, and his bunkmate was seeking to create excellent on that pledge.

Man freed in girl's one thousand nine hundred fifty-seven slaying speaks of prison, future

Jack McCullough awoke a few months into his life sentence for the one thousand nine hundred fifty-seven slaying of an IL schoolgirl as his cellmate plunged a shank fashioned from a toothbrush into his face, eventually dislodging his eye.

Multiple inmates had vowed to murder him to avenge Maria Ridulph, he said in phone interviews Sun and Monday, and his bunkmate was seeking to create excellent on that pledge. Ct records indicate his cellmate was convicted in the attack, in which McCullough said surgeons at a Chicago hospital were able to rescue his eye.

McCullough, a former police officer and security guard in WA state, was released from prison on Friday after a judge vacated his two thousand twelve conviction the same day based on a chief prosecutor'south finding that he was forty miles far when the 7-year-old was abducted, so he couldn't be the killer. The 76-year-old spoke to The Associated Press about his four years behind bars and what comes next: a lawsuit against the state of Illinois.

McCullough said one thing he didn't suffer in prison was a guilty conscience.

"I knew damned well I was innocent," said McCullough, speaking by phone from an acquaintance'south residence close the northern IL town of Sycamore, where Maria went missing.

Maria and a companion were playing in the snow exterior of her Sycamore residence on Dec. three, one thousand nine hundred fifty-seven, when a youthful man approached and offered them piggyback rides. The companion dashed residence to grab mittens, returning to discover Maria and the man gone. The look for for Maria made headlines at the time, and her decomposed body was found months later in a forest.

McCullough was born in Belfast, Ireland, and came to the U. S. with his mother in one thousand nine hundred forty-sixth and settled in Sycamore, where he lived until he was eighteen. The Ridulphs were neighbors. He then spent fourteen years in the military, including a stint in Vietnam. Later, he worked as a police officer in WA state, and worked as a security guard at a housing complex when he was arrested in 2011.

Among the reasons investigators decided to see anew at McCullough, whom police had cleared as a suspect in the one thousand nine hundred fifty, was that one of his half-sisters told authorities that their mother said on her deathbed she believed her son may have killed Maria.

A scathing report from Dekalb County State'south Attorney Richard Schmack in March described the investigation and trial of McCullough as deeply flawed, zeroing in on what he described as investigators' erroneous statements to a grand jury that altered the known timeline of events to render McCullough'south alibi moot.

Most inmates viewed McCullough as the lowest of the low — a baby killer — which he says keep him in fixed peril interior the maximum-security Pontiac Correctional Middle until he eventually moved to protective custody.

McCullough said he frequently spent twenty-three hours a day locked in an 11-foot-by-5-foot cell, maintaining his emotional balance, he said, by delving into the study of Chinese.

"It gave me my mental escape," he said. "Chinese saved my life."

He also wrote letters to the IL attorney general, the Gov and president pleading for their intervention. All went unanswered. "I didn't have anger. I'd determination," he said.

A turning point in his tender for freedom came Jan. one, when a new regulation took effect that required IL state'south attorneys to be proactive about reviewing plausible claims someone had been wrongly convicted. McCullough had filed a Ct document pointing out that obligation to Schmack, whose predecessor prosecuted McCullough.

Presently that he's out, McCullough says one of his missions is to highlight what he alleges is a prosecutorial culture of winning at all costs, even in cases love his where proof doesn't point to guilt.

And a lawsuit would assistance ensure the state will pay a monetary price for what he and his family went through, particularly his wife, who was left on her own in WA state when he was arrested, he said. He also has stepchildren and grandchildren.

"They didn't just punish me, they punished ... my whole family. I wish the state to be (held) responsible."

Schmack said latest week that his office would utilize its discretion and not retry McCullough, who the judge said should stay in IL until such a decision is official. There'south another hearing Friday, at which a judge will consider a Ridulph family request for a special prosecutor to see at the case.

McCullough'south first days of freedom included shopping, taking walks and getting a proper haircut, but in the future, he'd love to write a Chinese-language textbook, as well as travel to both China and Japan.

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