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Crime News Murders

Man Incarcerated Six Decades For Starved Rock Killing Fights Murder Conviction With DNA Testing

Chester Weger, who spent six decades fighting against his conviction in one of the Starved Rock State Park killings, hopes to demonstrate his innocence with retested DNA evidence from the 1960 crime scene.

By Kate Zincone
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An Illinois man recently paroled after spending nearly 60 years in prison for the murder of one of three women found bludgeoned to death in the state's Starved Rock State Park is seeking a hearing to re-examine DNA evidence from the crime scene.

Chester Weger, 83, was accused in the 1960 killings of Lillian Oetting, 50, Frances Murphy, 47, and Mildred Lindquist, 50.

The three Chicago-area women were visiting the state park in LaSalle County, Illinois, when they were bludgeoned more than 100 times. They were found partially disrobed, nearly decapitated, and with their wrists bound by twine at the mouth of a cave, Rolling Stone reported.

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Weger worked at the lodge where the women had been staying. He was a dishwasher in the kitchen there, where the state’s attorney found material that closely resembled the twine used to bind the victims.

After 24 hours of interrogation, Weger signed a confession that he quickly recanted, describing police as coercive and threatening, the Associated Press reported.

A police handout of Chester Weger

Weger was convicted of Oetting’s murder based primarily on his confession but was not tried for the deaths of Lindquist and Murphy. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1961.

Weger maintained his innocence throughout the nearly six decades he spent imprisoned. He was released in February of 2020 after being granted parole for demonstrating model behavior after 23 earlier attempts to earn parole.

The killings stunned the Chicago community, as did the conviction of the then 21-year-old. Weger continues to advocate for his innocence, though the courts have not absolved him in Oetting’s murder.

“I’m innocent,” Weger told Rolling Stone in August of 2022. “I was innocent. I wanna be vacated.”

Weger gained media attention as the longest-serving inmate in the state of Illinois. David Raccuglia, the son of Weger’s prosecutor, explored his circumstances in the HBO Max series “The Murders at Starved Rock.”

In 2021, a LaSalle County judge granted Weger’s attorneys permission to reexamine the evidence from the initial investigation. Hair, twine, and cigarette butts found at the crime scene were deemed acceptable for testing. 

The LaSalle County state attorney’s office resisted this ruling, explaining that the evidence had not been properly preserved and could no longer provide accurate results.

Regardless, the testing excluded Weger as a potential contributor of the hair.

“In our opinion, this evidence exonerates him,” noted Andy Hale, a wrongful conviction attorney who spoke with Shaw Local News Network in August 2022.

The new DNA test results, among other factors, was presented in a petition filed with LaSalle County Judge Michael Jansz last Friday to try to get a hearing to present new evidence to clear his name, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

This motion also explores allegations of impropriety by law enforcement, additional murder weapons, and a potential connection between one of the victims and the mafia.

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