SYCAMORE, Ill. — A Seattle man was found not guilty Thursday of raping an Illinois teenager 50 years ago in a case that stemmed from an unrelated charge — that he killed a young girl from the same small town five years earlier.
DeKalb County Judge Robbin Stuckert said prosecutors did not meet the burden of proof needed to convict Jack McCullough, 72, during a two-day trial. He was charged with rape and indecent liberties with a child in Sycamore, Ill., in 1962.
The accuser — McCullough's half-sister, Jeanne Tessier — testified that she was 14 when McCullough picked her up in a convertible and drove her to an unfamiliar house, where he assaulted her in a dark room before two other men also raped her.
The Associated Press generally does not name victims in rape cases, but Tessier gave reporters permission to use her name and talked openly about the alleged incident in an article published online in 2010.
Prosecutors argued that McCullough took advantage of the teen while he held a position of authority and trust. Defense attorneys said no one could corroborate Tessier's story and that there was no physical evidence.
Stuckert said prosecutors also presented no evidence that the girl's behavior, grades or appearance had changed after the alleged assault, and did not address why she had failed to come forward earlier.
"The state simply did not ask," the judge said. "The state has failed to meet its burden."
DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell was visibly upset after the verdict and called it "a miscarriage of justice."
Another woman testified that she was sexually assaulted by McCullough in 1982 when he was a police officer in Milton, Wash., and she was a 15-year-old runaway. McCullough originally was charged with statutory rape and eventually pleaded guilty to unlawful communication with a minor and was fired from his job.
McCullough showed no emotion in court when the verdict was read, but defense attorney Regina Harris said he cried afterward.
"He's relieved to tears," she said, adding that McCullough opted to have a judge, rather than a jury, decide the case because "it was more about the law than about the facts."
Tessier, of Kentucky, was not in court when the verdicts were read, but other family members were. One of her sisters sobbed uncontrollably after the verdict and one of her brothers said the family was "very upset."
McCullough is being held on bond of more than $3 million in the DeKalb County Jail, about 65 miles west of Chicago.
A grand jury indicted McCullough on the rape charges last September, a month after he was arrested in Seattle and indicted on kidnapping and murder charges in the 1957 death of another Sycamore girl, 7-year-old Maria Ridulph. He has pleaded not guilty, and a trial has not yet been scheduled in that case.
Tessier came forward after McCullough was arrested in Maria's death, one of the oldest slaying cases in the nation to be reopened.
Maria was abducted as she played outside her home in December 1957. Her body was found the following spring in a wooded area about 120 miles away.
McCullough, who was 18 and went by the name John Tessier at the time of the girl's disappearance, lived less than two blocks from her home. He was an initial suspect but had an alibi: He said he had traveled to Chicago that day for military medical exams before enlisting in the Air Force.