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Police interview 1982 sex-assault victim about murder suspect

Published: Monday, July 18, 2011 11:13 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO (MCT) — After the 14-year-old runaway told authorities in 1982 she was sexually assaulted by a police officer, the girl was whisked into a foster care system and never told the outcome of her complaint.

“I felt,” she said, “like everybody just forgot me.”

They hadn’t.

Almost 30 years later, detectives visited the Seattle-area pub where she works and asked her about John Tessier. They didn’t tell her specifically why they were asking, just that she might have information that could help with another case against him. But she found out five days later when she read in the newspaper that he was charged with the 1957 murder of Maria Ridulph, 7, of Sycamore, Ill.

Tessier, 71, who changed his name in 1994 to Jack Daniel McCullough, is in King County Jail in Seattle awaiting a court hearing Wednesday. Authorities in Illinois trying to bring him to DeKalb County for trial.

The victim in the 1982 case said in an interview that detectives from Illinois and Seattle spoke with her for 45 minutes about her knowledge of McCullough, but “they told me nothing” about the case they were investigating.

“I just knew I should always remember his name,” she said. “I knew I’d hear his name again and I knew it wouldn’t be for a good thing.”

The woman, who asked to be identified only as “Renee” to protect her identity, said that in 1982, she was living on the streets for about two weeks with a girlfriend. They found out about a local police officer, John Tessier, who occasionally allowed runaways to sleep in his apartment, Renee said.

By coincidence, Tessier, who worked for the Milton (Wash.) Police Department, was friends with a neighbor of her father, she said.

Tessier and her father arranged to let the girl stay at Tessier’s apartment, she said. She and her girlfriend lived with Tessier for a few weeks, during which time he told her how to wear makeup and let her drive his squad car, Renee said.

Renee told her girlfriend of the alleged attack, and the girlfriend told school counselors the next day, Renee said.

After meeting with the counselors and Milton police officers, Renee was taken to a local foster care crisis center, she said.

Tessier was charged on March 10, 1982, with statutory rape, court records state. The next day, records show, he “resigned in lieu of termination” from the Police Department.

On March 30 of that year he pleaded guilty to communication with a minor for immoral purposes, a lesser crime that Washington law defines as “promoting a child’s exposure to and involvement in sexual misconduct.” He stated in plea documents that he’d given the girl a massage at her request “and touched her sexually” then “ceased when I realized the seriousness of my actions.” Tessier was fined $350, records show.

About 26 years later — in 2008 — authorities in Illinois resumed the Ridulph investigation after getting new information that they said allegedly pointed to McCullough, who lived in Maria Ridulph’s neighborhood from about 1946 to December 1957.

McCullough had been a suspect in the crime but had an alibi and enlisted in the Air Force. He has lived in Washington for decades.

Authorities have declined to detail their evidence against McCullough.

In a jail interview after his arrest, McCullough said he was in Chicago on the day of Maria’s abduction, undergoing medical tests for his military enlistment. He said he later got a ride to Rockford, about 42 miles northwest of Sycamore.

He declined to discuss the 1982 sexual assault case.

Unaware how her case against McCullough had ended, Renee continued living in foster homes until she turned 18, she said.

She had a baby, married and divorced and took General Educational Development tests for a high school diploma.

Today she is a working mother of three who said she feels “lucky.”

Renee said she’s considering attending McCullough’s court hearings “so I can get one last look at him.” Seeing him handcuffed and in a jail jumpsuit would “make my day,” she said.But she has another reason for going to the hearings, she said.

“I want people to know that the victims have a voice, too,” Renee said. “I want them to know that little girl still has people who care about her. I care about her.”

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