Life in prison is supposed to be a punishment for a heinous crime, a punishment that deprives criminals of their liberty and the chance to have the lives their victims never could. But when that sentence is handed down to a 73-year-old who's had a long, full life -- the kind of life he stole from his 7-year-old victim, Maria Ridulph -- it's a cruel joke
On Monday, former Washington state police trooper Jack McCollough was sentenced to life in prison for the kidnapping and murder of Ridulph more than 50 years ago. He was convicted in September, ending the saga of one of America's oldest cold cases to actually make it to trial. While a life sentence -- the maximum for which he was eligible -- is just and fair, it's a case of too little, too late.
McCullough's half-sister Janet Tessier testified during the trial that his mother made "incriminating comments" on her deathbed in 1994, and acknowledged that she'd lied to police when she supported his alibi. Prosecutors said McCullough had introduced himself to Ridulph and her friend, Kathy Chapman, now 63, as "Johnny," and once he had Ridulph alone, he dragged her into an alley, strangled her, and then dumped her body 100 miles from the scene of the crime.
Now, 55 years later, he's being given a life sentence. Frankly, this is bulls*it. I'm sure some of the poor girl's friends and family feel some relief at having a resolution to this horrific scenario. But McCullough getting life now is like taking a man on his deathbed and punishing him. What does it even matter? He's had his life. He had a career. He had family and friends around him for more than five decades. Five decades stolen from an innocent young girl.
Maria never got to grow up. Fall in love. Start a family. Have a career. See a man walk on the moon. See all the ways in which the world has changed since 1957. She would have been the same age as my father.
It's good to see justice done, but there's no punishment that can make up for the life he stole that he got to live instead.
Do you think that even though he's been sentenced to life in prison, Jack McCollough really got away with murder?
Image via Tim Pierce, Los Gatos/Flickr