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Illinois Prosecutor Claims New Evidence Clears Ex-Cop Convicted in 1957 Murder of 7-Year-Old Girl

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Danielle Guerra/Daily Chronicle/AP

An Illinois prosecutor believes there is “clear and convincing evidence” that a man was wrongfully convicted in 2012 for the 1957 murder of a 7-year-old girl.

Jack Daniel McCullough, 75, was convicted of the abduction and murder of Maria Ridulph, a 7-year-old girl who vanished from Sycamore, Illinois, in 1957. Her body was recovered five months after her disappearance, and her homicide had been one of the nation s oldest unsolved cases.

McCullough, a former police officer, was found guilty following a week-long trial by a judge, according to officials.

Now, Richard Schmack, the state’s attorney for DeKalb County, claims he has reviewed every aspect of the case and believes there is no way McCullough could have committed the crime.

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“Thousands of pages of improperly excluded police reports more than 20 years old contain a wealth of information pointing to McCullough’s innocence, and absolutely nothing showing guilt,” says a statement from Schmack obtained by PEOPLE.

“I truly wish that this crime had really been solved, and her true killer were incarcerated for life,” the statement continues. “When I began this lengthy review I had expected to find some reliable evidence that the right man had been convicted. No such evidence could be discovered. Compounding the tragedy by convicting the wrong man, and fighting further in the hopes of keeping him jailed, is not the proper legacy for our community, or for the memory of Maria Ridulph.”

McCullough has long maintained his innocence, according to Schmack, who spent six months reviewing records.

A hearing in the matter is scheduled for Tuesday in Sycamore.