"I couldn't wait to get out of Sycamore. It bothered me my whole life why he took her and not me. For years I would ask myself, 'Was she prettier than I was?'"
Kathy's family moved away from Archie Place in 1961 to a subdivision on the outskirts of town. When a young man named Mike Chapman met her at a bowling alley, his mother tried to talk him out of dating her. "Don't you know who she is?" the mother asked. "She's the one who was with Maria. Can't you find someone else?"
But Mike wanted only Kathy, and she knew he was the key to a new life. They left Sycamore in 1969 and married in San Antonio, Texas, where Mike attended technical school. They moved around a bit, then settled in Tampa, Florida, before returning to Sycamore to care for aging parents. They raised three children.
Kathy says her own parents were so overprotective she felt like a prisoner. As a mother, she went the other way, letting her kids make their own decisions and their own mistakes. The couple now lives in St. Charles, about a half-hour drive from Sycamore.
No matter where they went, Kathy looked back over her shoulder.
Johnny was still out there.
Chapter 2: A trail of women wronged
John Tessier left his parents' house in Sycamore, Illinois, for good on December 11, 1957 -- eight days after Maria Ridulph disappeared.
He says he didn't often think about what happened to the little girl who lived around the corner. He remembers talking with her just once. But he never forgot her.
More than half a century later, police and prosecutors would find it disturbing how Tessier's voice softened every time he spoke of her beauty and those big brown eyes. He'd smile and his own pale blue eyes would get an odd, faraway look as he told people she was "lovely, lovely, lovely" and "like a little Barbie doll."
John Tessier is Jack McCullough now. He is 73 years old and recently met with CNN at a state prison in southern Illinois. He told the story of how he protected Maria that one time they met.
He was about 13, he said, and she was tiny, about 3, when he found her wandering alone at the corner of busy Center Cross Street, the very spot from which she would disappear four years later. He said he told her to go home and stood in the middle of the street and watched for cars as she trotted up her driveway and got safely inside.
"You gotta understand," he said, "we boys protected all of the children in the neighborhood. When Maria was taken, it was an affront. Our lives would never be the same after that. Our neighborhood wasn't the same anymore."
Sycamore was changed forever by the Maria Ridulph case -- one of the few indisputable facts in the oldest cold case to go to trial in the United States. The case was controversial from the start: It was built on circumstantial evidence, the time of the kidnapping is in dispute and an alibi the defense calls "ironclad" was never presented in court.
Five decades after Maria was kidnapped and killed, cops would call the crime "Sycamore's 9/11." It shook the place that hard. But while the town of 7,000 struggled with its loss of innocence, John Tessier spent most of his life elsewhere.
He joined the Air Force, and then the Army. He attended officer training school and served in battle in Vietnam as a lieutenant, twice winning the Bronze Star. He'd always felt destined to be a soldier, he told CNN. After all, John's grandfather served in Britain, and his mother was in the Royal Air Force, one of the first female searchlight operators during World War II.
In one of his earliest memories, he is being carried up a flight of dark, narrow stairs in London on the back of a soldier. He believes it was his father, killed in the war, giving him a piggyback ride.
With both parents in the military, he spent his youth in the English countryside, in the care of an elderly couple and isolated from other children as war ravaged London.
When he was about 7 and his mother brought him to Sycamore, Tessier seemed an odd duck. He didn't know how to act around other children. He walked the streets wearing camouflage pants and waving a wooden sword -- "Commando," the neighborhood kids called him. He loved the popular Civil War song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." He identified with it.
"My name was Johnny and that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to come home the hero," he told CNN. "My DNA is protector."
That statement reveals an alarming disconnect between how he views himself and how others who crossed his path describe him.
Some say he was a screw-up. To others, he was a masterful manipulator. To some women, especially the younger ones, he was a lecher and worse, a menacing sexual predator. Later in life, he did settle down with a woman who, with her daughter, came to view him as he always viewed himself -- as a mentor and protector.
The FBI showed an interest in John Tessier during the early days of the Maria Ridulph investigation in Sycamore. But 50 years would pass before authorities would look for him again. The four-year investigation took agents with the Illinois State Police from Sycamore to Seattle.
When it was over, Johnny came shuffling home in shackles.