Doe also picked up on McCullough's odd demeanor when he spoke of Maria, just as investigators had. "He would seem almost childlike. He would get real giddy, if that's the right word. It's like he couldn't stop himself. He would just keep going and going. When he was talking about the little girl, he would get amped up."
Testimony lasted all of four days. McCullough did not take the stand, so his alibi was never presented.
Besides the excluded FBI reports, there were other missing pieces at the trial. The unused train ticket from Rockford to Chicago didn't come into evidence, nor did the video of his eight-hour police interrogation. That evidence didn't really prove anything, other than to cast doubt on his credibility, and by remaining silent he didn't call his credibility into question.
When it came time for the verdict, Judge Hallock said he believed the informants and found Kathy Chapman's testimony particularly convincing. He didn't say a word about what Eileen Tessier told her daughters on her deathbed.
A loud cheer erupted as the judge handed down the verdict -- guilty on all counts: murder, kidnapping and abduction of an infant.
Johnny was going to prison. Kathy was finally free.
"If I would have been shown his picture in 1957," she said, " he would not have been a free man all those years. He would have been in jail."
At a news conference, Janet Tessier told Maria's siblings she was sorry -- sorry that her brother killed Maria, and sorry it had taken so long for the truth to be told.
She apologized on behalf of her mother.
Jaded cops had tears in their eyes. Justice was Maria's at last.
McCullough is 73, and prison life isn't easy. He spends most of his time alone. He is kept in protective custody because he qualifies twice as the lowest form of life in prison culture: He's a convicted child killer and an ex-cop.
He spoke for several hours with CNN while at the state's maximum-security prison in Menard, before being moved to another prison in Pontiac, most likely because of his age and notoriety. Menard, a 19th century brick behemoth, overlooks the Mississippi River in southern Illinois, about an hour's drive from St. Louis, Missouri.
McCullough announced his innocence without prompting as he sat down and was shackled to a metal table: "I've been accused and convicted of a murder I did not commit." He said it twice.
He seemed happy to have visitors. He likes to talk, especially about himself. He broke into tears when asked about his combat experience in Vietnam, but showed little emotion as he spoke about the murder in his hometown. His explanation: "I was part of one, but not the other."
He tried to steer the conversation away from questions about Jeanne, the sister who accused him of rape, and his acquittal in that case. "We have a history," he said of his sister. He used the same expression to describe the relationship between his mother and her father, who he believes sexually abused her.
He spoke about his mother as if she were a saint and called Janet, the sister who launched the murder investigation, "a black sheep" and a liar. He responded with a non sequitur when asked: If he were innocent, why would so many people tell lies about him in court? "Exactly."
He wouldn't discuss the nude photograph of his 12-year-old daughter that an ex-wife said she found hidden under a drawer. He said his daughter was troubled and had problems with men, drugs and alcohol.
He said he regretted taking in the teen runaway Michelle Weinman when he was a police officer and says she "set me up."
"I was accused of rape, and it didn't happen."
By the time of CNN's interview, he had come to recognize that others found it strange that he referred to 7-year-old Maria Ridulph as "lovely, lovely, lovely." He changed his wording, calling her "precious." An odd expression crossed his face when he spoke of the little girl with the dark, curly hair and big brown eyes.
There is a gap between his front teeth and he does have a high, thin voice, just as Kathy described all those years ago. He is quick to anger over certain subjects and, when that happens, there is nothing soft in his blue eyes.
The women left behind
Unlike many destined to end their days behind bars, Jack McCullough has not been forgotten. His wife of nearly 20 years, Sue McCullough, and a stepdaughter, Janey O'Connor, wrote letters to the court saying they stood by him. Both are certain that he is the victim of a grave injustice.
Their letters were more articulate than many written on behalf of men judged guilty of heinous crimes. Sue scolded the authorities in Illinois: "My husband was convicted in order to close the oldest cold case in U.S. history. You should all be ashamed of yourselves." And the hurt in O'Connor's words was unmistakable: "Perhaps sacrificing one old man is enough to give an entire community closure," she wrote. "My Dad is innocent. I hope the pain of my family is worth the five minutes of fame you all have received."