DeKalb County Public Defender Regina Harris, the lead attorney in the high-profile Jack McCullough murder case, announced Friday she is resigning to pursue private legal practice.
Harris has been a public defender for more than two decades and has been head of the office in DeKalb since 2007.
“I’ve been doing this for 24 years, and sometimes there comes a point where you have to see what your other opportunities are,” she said Friday, her final day.
This spring Harris had been the lead attorney representing -- and winning an acquittal for -- McCullough in a 50-year-old sex assault case.
Harris has also been representing him on first-degree murder charges in the slaying of Maria Ridulph, a 7-year-old Sycamore girl who disappeared in December 1957, and whose body was found several months later.
McCullough, 72, a Seattle retiree and former Sycamore resident, was charged with Ridulph’s murder last year.
A Sept. 10 trial date was set for the murder trial on Thursday, but Harris said her decision to leave was not influenced by the case and should not affect the trial schedule.
Her co-counsel, Robert Carlson, is ready to take over as lead attorney, Harris said.
In the same announcement of Harris’ departure, Carlson was named as acting public defender by presiding DeKalb County Judge Robbin Stuckert, who said an interim chief defender will likely be named soon while the search for Harris’ replacement takes place.
In her statement, Stuckert thanked Harris for her service in a position that is “very demanding and often thankless.”
“Ms. Harris was very passionate about our drug court in particular and was instrumental in its success,” the judge said.