St. Charles resident Jeffrey Doty knows how innocent people can be wrongly convicted.
Doty is the co-author of “A Convenient Man,” which tells the story of Jack McCullough, who spent almost five years wrongly imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. In 1957, 7-year-old Maria Ridulph was kidnapped from Sycamore while playing with her friend.
McCullough, who under his former name John Tessier had been a neighbor of the Ridulph family, was wrongly convicted for her murder in September 2012. However, in March 2016, the DeKalb County State’s Attorney announced that a post-conviction review of available evidence showed McCullough could not have been present at the place and time of Ridulph’s abduction.
McCullough was released from prison in April 2016 and the charges against him were dismissed. He was declared innocent of the crime by the DeKalb County Circuit Court in 2017.
Doty will talk about the book and the case during a Zoom discussion at 7 p.m. Tuesday presented by the St. Charles Public Library. To register for the program, go to https://scpld.libnet.info/event/4821949.
“I think a lot of wrongful convictions are based on a rush to judgement,” Doty said, in talking about the case. “The police, or sometimes just the prosecutors, get over enthusiastic because it’s a big case and it’s often an election year. And if they can make a name for themselves and make everything appear as if they had a heavy hand in solving whatever case it is, it all goes better for them politically. And somewhere in that focus, the truth gets lost.”
Doty is a 1981 St. Charles High School graduate. He will soon retire from his day job as a barber at For Men Only Barbershop in St. Charles, where he has worked for 40 years. His mother is a retired newspaper reporter.
Initially, he thought McCullough was guilty. Doty got interested in the case because at the time, the case was the oldest cold case murder in the United States to be solved when McCullough was convicted for the murder.
“I’m a huge fan of history and I thought, ‘Well, someone should just document this case,’” Doty said. “That’s all I was looking to do. I was looking to do a book on the oldest cold case ever successfully taken to trial and the outcome.”
After starting to investigate the case, it didn’t take long for him to start questioning McCullough’s conviction.
“There was reasonable doubt,” Doty said. “There were a lot of unfilled gaps in the story.”
As he looked into the case more, he discovered the timeline that the prosecution presented was off by at least 40 minutes. According to Doty, McCullough was 36 to 40 miles away at the time the crime was committed.
He was relieved when the charges against McCullough were dropped. He previously wrote about the case in his book, “Piggyback.”
“When I wrote the first book, ‘Piggyback,’ that was published in 2014 and that was two years before he was released,” Doty said. “I was the first person to put it in print that he was innocent. He still says that I saved his life.”