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31-Oct-2019 02:44

People didn't lock their doors in this Midwestern farm town because everyone knew everybody else.

Sycamore and its 7,000 souls felt safe on the morning of December 3, 1957, but the feeling wouldn't last.

But it is difficult to reconstruct the past in a courtroom.

People die, memories fade and facts can become distorted by the passage of time or shaded by personal grudges and agendas.

aria was the pretty one, slight and graceful at 7 with big brown eyes that shined with warmth and intelligence.

Everyone said the second-grader was special and Kathy, who was a year older, felt honored to be her friend.

When they emerged, the man was gone — but he'd left something disturbing behind.

Scattered on the sidewalk were half a dozen photographs of nude women.

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.