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Witness: 1957 Sycamore murder victim, 7, suffered 3 deep stab wounds

Updated: September 12, 2012 9:36PM

Maria Ridulph suffered three deep stab wounds that left “cut marks” visible on her bones more than 50 years later, a forensic scientist said Wednesday.

But two DeKalb County Jail inmates claimed the man accused of kidnapping and killing Ridulph in 1957 told them only days ago he had strangled the 7-year-old Sycamore girl with a wire.

And two Seattle police detectives who escorted Jack Daniel McCullough to Sycamore in 2011 after he was charged with killing Ridulph said he repeatedly denied any role in her death.

The conflicting testimony — interrupted when a fire alarm emptied the DeKalb County courthouse — happened as prosecutors neared the end of their case in the decades-old killing.

Prosecutors are expected Thursday to finish presenting their evidence against the now-72-year-old McCullough, who in 1957 lived a few blocks from Ridulph in the small DeKalb County town.

Ridulph vanished from her neighborhood on Dec. 3, 1957 and despite massive searches, was never seen alive again. Her decomposed body was discovered nearly five months later in rural Jo Daviess County. An autopsy then concluded she had been murdered but could not determine how she was slain.

A forensic exam done last year after her body was exhumed found signs of three severe stab wounds that damaged her breastbone and backbone, said Krista Latham, an anthropologist who conducted the study.

The chest wounds likely were caused by a “large-bladed” knife and happened near the time of her death because there were no signs of healing, said Latham, a professor at the University of Indianapolis.

Two inmates jailed with McCullough testified he told them earlier this month he had strangled Ridulph after giving her a piggyback ride, then carrying her away from her neighborhood.

“He starts describing about his case, how he killed the little girl, how he strangled her with a wire,” said Christopher Diaz, who is awaiting trial on sexual abuse charges.

McCullough talked about the killing while asking him to “do something” about another jail inmate expected to testify for prosecutors, Diaz said.

McCullough continually denied any involvement in the notorious killing while he was travelling last year to Sycamore after being charged, said two Seattle police detectives who escorted him from Washington State to Illinois.

“He did not admit he had any involvement in Maria’s kidnapping and murder,” said Det. Cloyd Steger.

McCullough talked continually about the killing throughout the trip and at one point described Maria as “a beautiful little Barbie doll,” Steger said.

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