No wonder she couldn't wait to get out of Sycamore, Illinois. And so eventually she did, marrying and moving to Texas and Florida and raising three kids before settling in St. Charles, about half an hour away from her hometown.
Knock, knock. A man in his late 30s wearing a football jersey and a turned-around ball cap stood at the door, chewing gum furiously. It was about 6 p.m. on September 1, 2010. He knocked again.
Kathy Sigman Chapman thought the caller was a salesman, so she ignored him. But as he turned to walk away, her husband spotted handcuffs dangling from his back pocket.
Can I help you? Mike Chapman asked, opening the door a crack and peering out.
The man turned and answered: This is about something that happened a long time ago.
Brion Hanley, of the Illinois State Police, wanted to show Kathy some photos. For two years, he'd been piecing together a cold case -- rekindling memories, poking holes in an alibi.
It began when a tipster e-mailed state police, saying her mother knew who was responsible for Maria's disappearance and murder: the tipster's half brother, John Tessier. Those two girls, and the one that disappeared, John did it, the dying woman told her daughter. John did it, and you have to tell someone.
Hanley and his partner, Larry Kot, had compiled a "six-pack" -- a composite lineup of six photographs, including one taken of their suspect, John Tessier, at a dance. The detective was eager to show the lineup to Kathy.
But as she spoke of "Johnny," all the details came flooding back -- the piggyback ride he gave Maria, the trip Kathy made to fetch her mittens and how she lost her best friend. Kathy felt overwhelmed.
Hanley sensed it was too soon to show her the photographs. He'd only get one chance, and she was too rattled. She needed more time to work through long-buried memories.
More than a week passed before he stopped by to see the Chapmans again. This time, he laid out the six shots, one by one, on the glass-topped coffee table in the couple's living room. Kathy perched on the edge of the sofa, leaning forward as she intently studied each face.
Five of the photos were taken from Sycamore High School's yearbook. John Tessier had been kicked out of school in 10th grade, so his close-up wasn't from the yearbook. It was slightly different. His collar was open and the background was darker.
Kathy eliminated several photos right away, but she continued to pore over two -- No. 1 and No. 4. She studied them for a good two minutes; it felt to Hanley like an eternity.
"That's him," she said, tapping No. 4.
Kathy placed her hands over her head and let out a long sigh.
She was certain.
She didn't know whose picture she'd chosen, or if it was the one Hanley was hoping she'd pick. He didn't tell her.
But she had no doubt.
"I couldn't forget that face," she later recalled.
Her mother had instructed her to sear Johnny into her memory:
Remember his face, Kathy, she'd said. You are the only one who can catch him. You are the only one who knows what he looks like.
More than half a century later, Kathy smiled.
"Yeah, Mom, I remember."
'You don't know Jack'