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Three women embarked on a winter’s trek through Starved Rock State Park in Illinois on March 14, 1960. Shortly after lunch, on what was meant to be the first excursion of a four-day trip, Lillian Oetting, 50, Frances Murphy, 47, and Mildred Linquist, 50, left The Starved Rock Lodge to see St. Louis Canyon and its frozen waterfall, according to the Chicago Tribune. Two days later, their partially nude, bound, and beaten bodies were discovered in a cave nearby.
Each woman was struck more than 100 times with a frozen tree limb found at the crime scene.
Chester Weger, a 21-year-old dishwasher employed at the lodge, was arrested and convicted of Oetting’s murder after investigators linked twine used to bind the women's hand to twin in the lodge’s toolshed. Prosecutors dropped the charges surrounding Murphy and Linquist’s deaths after Weger was sentenced to life for Oetting’s murder.
But how did David Raccuglia, entrepreneur and founder of the famous men’s grooming brand American Crew, involved in this story? And how did his search for answers become key to the new docu-series, “The Murders At Starved Rock,” premiering on Dec. 14, 2021, on HBO.
In an interview with local radio station WLPO, Raccuglia explained he started his own documentary in 2003 before an LA-based production company merged his project with theirs, using Raccuglia’s research and footage.
“It’s a personal story, so a lot of times there was a struggle… I had to endure things said about my family,” said Raccuglia. “But that’s what it takes. It takes sheer honesty to try and get the truth out.”
Raccuglia’s father, Tony Raccuglia, was the assistant state’s attorney at Weger’s trial. Raccuglia took on the investigative project after a 2003 article named said father had been untruthful in Weger’s case.
“When I saw that, I realized there was another whole side of this story that I have never really heard,” he said.
In “The Murders At Starved Rock,” Raccuglia explained that he thought of Chester Weger as the boogeyman of his childhood and that he “used to lay in bed, terrified that he was gonna kill me” because of his father’s role in the trial.
Raccuglia spent years filming interviews with his late father, and even Chester Weger himself, in his quest to uncover the truth about 82-year-old man who maintains his innocence.
Weger claimed LaSalle County investigators threatened him with the death penalty, kept him awake and beat him until he signed a false confession.
Two days later, he recanted.
“They ruined my life,” Weger said upon his 2020 release, according to the Associated Press. “They locked me up for 60 years for something I’ve never done.”
In October, a judge ruled that evidence at the crime scene, including cigarette butts, hair, and twine, could be tested for DNA, as previously reported. LaSalle County prosecutors called it a “fishing expedition.”
“The Murders At Starved Rock” premieres on HBO and HBOMax on Dec. 14.
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