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In the Ridulph case, there was no DNA, no confession by the killer.

This mystery was solved by circumstantial evidence amassed over four years by bulldog cops and other outsiders who came to Sycamore to stand up for a little girl whose life was stolen.

It required family members to turn against one of their own and haunted a small town for 55 years. Maria was taken in a more innocent time — decades before Amber Alerts and photos of missing children on milk cartons became part of our cultural landscape. But the weeks of urgent activity were followed by half a century of silence.

In 1957, the kidnapping of a little girl shattered everyone's sense of safety. Reporters flocked to Sycamore from the big city papers in Chicago and New York and from the fledgling television networks. Edgar Hoover demanded daily updates from his men and sent teletypes with detailed instructions. Secrets often lie at the heart of crimes that remain unsolved so long they are said to go "cold." Most are cracked by advances in science, or by someone's need to come clean.

Maria burst into her house to find her father, Michael, in the living room watching a Western. Maria picked out a favorite doll from the toys piled by the door, but her mother suggested she take an older rubber doll out into the snow instead.

Kathy felt a chill as Maria joined them on the sidewalk.

Maria and Kathy made plans to play there after dinner. Maria's family gathered around the table for her favorite supper: rabbit, carrots, potatoes and milk.

It was a favorite spot they hadn't been to since summer. She finished off two rabbit legs, but barely touched her vegetables.His wife of nearly 20 years and his stepdaughter say he was sacrificed to bring peace of mind to Sycamore.An appeal has been filed and likely will take two years or more to be heard.They lived a few doors away from each other on a side street called Archie Place.It was their whole world in 1957, a time when children played hide-and-seek outside instead of watching television.Now imagine trying to explain what you were doing a lifetime ago.

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