(NEW YORK) — A man who was accused of raping his half-sister 50 years ago was found not guilty Thursday by a judge in DeKalb County, Ill., who said prosecutors “failed to meet their burden.”
The sexual abuse allegation against Jack McCullough, 72, was revealed when police contacted his half-sister during a cold case investigation into the 1957 murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph. McCullough has pleaded not guilty in that case and will be tried at a later date.
“I believe that based on what the law requires in terms of the kinds of proof in these cases, there wasn’t enough [evidence],” McCullough’s public defender, Regina Harris, told ABC News, speaking about the rape case. “[The judge] didn’t say she didn’t believe the victim, she didn’t say she wasn’t credible. There just wasn’t enough to support it under the law that applied.”
The alleged victim testified at McCullough’s trial and recounted the horror of the day in 1962 when at age 14, she asked for a ride in a convertible she said her half-brother was driving. He gave her a ride to his residence, where she said he turned on her.
“He told me to get on the bed. He took my lower clothes off and he raped me,” the woman told the court, according to ABC News affiliate WLS-TV.
Three roommates walked in and McCullough offered them a turn to assault her, the victim said. Two of the three men did, according to her testimony.
Although the statute of limitations for rape was three years in Illinois at the time, Harris said, McCullough was able to be prosecuted since he left the state in 1962 and was no longer a resident of the state.
McCullough had faced between one year and life in prison if he had been found guilty.
The 72-year-old was arrested in Seattle last July after police uncovered new evidence in the cold case murder of Ridulph.
When Ridulph first went missing on Dec. 3, 1957, police received an anonymous phone call days later that John Tessier, McCullough’s birthname, matched the description of a man seen talking to her.
Tessier changed his last name to McCullough after his mother died in 1994 to honor her maiden name, Harris said.
When police questioned him, he said he had taken a train from Rockford, Ill., about 40 miles from Sycamore, to Chicago, where he received a physical exam and psychological tests to determine his eligibility for military service.
Nearly five months later, Ridulph’s bones were found about 120 miles from where she vanished.
McCullough left the state soon after the murder and joined the Air Force. He later transferred to the Army and then worked as a policeman.
Decades later, new leads emerged, including an unstamped train ticket McCullough’s ex-girlfriend found behind a picture frame. According to an affidavit, the ticket had a government stamp, indicating it was issued to the government, a common practice at the time when distributing tickets to military recruits.
Under a new cloud of suspicion, McCullough admitted he had never taken a train to Chicago, and said his stepfather drove him there and he then hitched a ride back to Rockford where he called his stepfather to pick him up.
In a courthouse interview last year, McCullough maintained his innocence and alibi.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire