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The Other Starved Rock Players: Who Were George Spiros And Harold “Smokey” Wrona?
Some suspicion has been cast on both George Spiros and Harold “Smokey” Wrona.
Chester Weger remains adamant to this day that he was not behind the Starved Rock murders, and he wasn’t the only suspect who was eyed by law enforcement after the horrific slayings.
Weger, now 82, was convicted in 1961 of the 1960 murders of Frances Murphy, 47; Lillian Oetting, 50; and Mildrid Linquist, 54. They were killed while they went on a wintry hike at Starved Rock, a famed Illinois-area park. “The Murders at Starved Rock,” which premiered on Tuesday on HBO Max, takes another look at the infamous case and examines Weger’s possible innocence.
Weger and his family have long maintained that he was coerced into a confession. His conviction of Oetting (prosecutors chose not to try him for the other murders after that conviction) divided the community. Weger was paroled last year after nearly 60 years behind bars, the Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this year. Just recently, his lawyers got permission from a LaSalle County judge to conduct a forensic examination of the evidence used to convict him. it’s expected to be tested by sometime next year, according to the HBO docuseries.
So if the killer wasn't Weger, who could it be?
Weger mentions in the docuseries that he thinks George Spiros, who was the son of the owner of Starved Rock Lodge in 1960, where the women were staying at the time they were killed, may have had something to do with the slayings. Deedra Fox, claims in “The Murders at Starved Rock” that he enjoyed harassing and inducing fear in women. Fox, who was also a member of the Committee to Free Chester Weger, recounted that Spiros would watch her and sexually harass her while she worked at the Lodge.
She recalled a moment in which he locked her in a cabin at the lodge with barking dogs; she theorized that dogs could have been utilized in attacking the women.
"I believe he had those dogs pull those women at bay while he tied them up," she said, noting paw prints found at the crime scene.
Spiros was also initially eyed in the murders and he was the one who sent investigators Weger's way. At the time, Weger was a 21-year-old dishwasher at the lodge, according to the docuseries.
Weger’s former public defender Donna Kelly filed a clemency hearing request in 2005 in which she cast suspicion on Spiros, reported the Chicago Magazine. Just two weeks later, Spiros was found dead in his Starved Rock residence at the age of 73 from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. His dog was also found dead at the scene.
“I feel it’s suspicious that this man was a suspect in this highly publicized case and now he’s dead,” Kelly told the Times of Ottawa at the time, according to Chicago Magazine.
Spiros' family maintain that he took his own life to avoid the suffering of cancer he had recently been diagnosed with, according to the docuseries.
Then there was also Harold “Smokey” Wrona who may have apparently told his sister before dying in 2005 that he was involved in the murders and that Weger had nothing to do with them, according to Chicago Magazine. That has never been verified. According to the docuseries, he had been linked to upwards of 13 murders but that also does not appear to be verified. Wrona was an informant regarding a 1984 murder, according to court records.