Maria's siblings did not stand up in court and speak. They chose instead to write letters, which were slipped into the court file. The sad, simple beauty of their words bore stark contrast to the ugliness of McCullough's.
Chuck Ridulph wrote about the crime that defined his life, and the little sister he never got to know. As his parents neared the end of their lives, he said, they both couldn't wait to be with Maria. They are buried next to her at Elmwood Cemetery.
He wonders often about the woman Maria would have become. "Would she have excelled at music?" he asked. "How would I have scrutinized her first boyfriend? Where would she have gone to college? Who would she have married? How many children would she have had? What fun would we have had together? The answer to all those questions, and so many more, Jack McCullough snatched away."
Snow began to fall as the hearing ended and the key players in this cold case gathered one last time on the front steps of the old courthouse in Sycamore. The meaning was lost on no one: It had been snowing all those years ago when Maria was taken.
Chuck Ridulph felt the hand of God. Kathy Chapman saw her lost friend signaling approval.
Once again, Kathy's hands felt cold. Some things never change; she had left her gloves behind in the car.
She stopped by Maria's grave on her way home from court. She bent down and picked up a small rock with the word "justice" carved into it. She cradled it in her gloved hands as she bowed her head in silence. Asked later what she told Maria, she replied, softly, "Private little things."
After Kathy had gone, seven pennies -- one for each year of Maria's life -- were lined up on the headstone.
How this story was reported
The 1957 kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph is the nation's oldest cold case to go to trial. This story was pieced together by CNN's Ann O'Neill through interviews and public records.
She and video producer Brandon Ancil traveled to Sycamore, Illinois, and Seattle, Washington, to interview investigators, witnesses, prosecutors and family members of the man convicted of the crime. They interviewed the convicted killer in prison and obtained a video copy of his eight-hour interrogation by police.
O'Neill reviewed numerous documents, including transcripts of the trial and key pretrial hearings. She obtained several hundred pages of 1957 FBI reports from the National Archives through a public records request. Thousands of pages more remain classified, according to the U.S. Justice Department. The exhibits presented at trial were unsealed at CNN's request by the Second District of the Illinois Appellate Court.
Some of the people quoted in this story are dead. Their quotes come from police and FBI reports and media reports from 1957.
Maria's brother, Chuck Ridulph, declined to be interviewed, as did the defendant's half sisters, Janet and Jeanne Tessier. Their accounts are based on their trial testimony, public records and interviews with other media.