"The only time Mom talked about it was when I was going to see the FBI," McCullough insisted. "She was crying. I said, 'Don't worry Mom, I'll be cleared.'"
He refused to acknowledge that his mother would say on her deathbed that he killed Maria. "That's a lie! My mother loved me," he protested. "She would never say that."
Ciesynski showed him an unused, military-issued train ticket investigators received from an old girlfriend and pressed him on how he'd gotten around on December 3.
He was at a recruiting station in Chicago the morning of Maria's kidnapping, but his whereabouts between noon and 7:15 p.m. could not be independently verified. If he hadn't taken the train to Chicago, as he'd originally told the FBI, he must have driven his car there, the cops believed. And if that was the case, he could have driven back to Sycamore. He could have been there during the period the cops now suspected Maria was snatched.
McCullough couldn't really explain. Maybe he hitchhiked, he said.
Finally, Ciesynski showed him the lineup photos, laying copies down on the table like playing cards. In the No. 4 spot was the photo of him that Maria's friend Kathy had identified. McCullough avoided looking at it.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said.
The detective pressed on. "There's no doubt in my mind that you were the person who was there. I'm not saying that you went and killed her. You were there at this time."
McCullough pushed back. "This was two blocks away from my house. Everybody in the neighborhood knew me."
He grew edgy when he was asked whether he ever handled Maria's clothes or touched any of her things. He placed a chair as a barricade between himself and the detective, who decided that it was a good time to leave the suspect alone with his thoughts.
With the cops out of the room, McCullough touched his toes, stretched and pushed the photo of himself away, sliding it across the table. He sighed and studied his image in the reflective glass of a one-way window. He looked at the photo again, and back at his reflection. Then he studied the photo some more.
As the clock struck midnight, he leaned back in his chair, pursed his lips and made a raspberry sound. He said, to no one in particular, "Not a very good picture." He looked at it again, leaned back and let out a long, loud belch.
"OK, that's me," he conceded when Ciesynski returned a few minutes later.
"This is a very poor picture. I didn't even recognize myself." He said that the boy in the photo looked "too effeminate."
He was shown the full photograph, taken on a date with a girlfriend, Jan Edwards, on June 22, 1957. "I was in love with that woman for so many years," he said. "She didn't even know it. Thanks for showing me this. It brings back wonderful memories."
"Remember what she knew you as?" Ciesynski asked. "She knows you as Johnny."
It went downhill from there.
"I didn't do it," he asserted.
"Who did it?" Ciesynski pressed.
"I have no idea."
Some eight hours had passed since McCullough was asked to take a ride downtown.
"You do realize that you are under arrest," the cop finally said, bringing out his handcuffs.
"We're done. We're done. Where's my lawyer?" McCullough said.
At 3 a.m., the cops called Clay Campbell, the top prosecutor in DeKalb County, Illinois. The Seattle cops transmitted a video copy of the interrogation.
"Clay, you've got to watch this," homicide cop Steiger told him.