An Illinois man convicted of a triple murder and sentenced to decades in prison who was paroled in recent years now wants a judge to give him a hearing in hopes of formally establishing his innocence.
“I’m innocent,” Chester Weger, 83, told Rolling Stone in August 2022. “I was innocent. I wanna be vacated.”
In March 1961, Weger was convicted of murdering Lillian Oetting – one of three friends killed during an all-women weekend getaway at the Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County, Illinois in March 1960.
The 50-year-old Oetting was joined by Frances Murphy, 47, and Mildred Lindquist, 50. All three victims hailed from the suburbs of Chicago. Their bodies were found at the mouth of a cave. The victims were each partially disrobed; each corpse was bound with twine.
Weger was paroled for good behavior in November 2019 and released in February 2020 – but his murder conviction remained.
Following that nearly 59-year-long stint behind bars, attorneys for the freed man–who had, but for one initial slip-up, consistently maintained his innocence—received permission from a LaSalle County judge to reexamine the evidence arrayed by the state during the murder investigation, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
For one, there was his signed confession where he admitted to murdering the three women. Weger, however, recanted a few days later and then based his trial defense on the idea that detectives had threatened him with his life and obtained the confession under duress.
Then there was the twine. At the time of the murders, Weger was a dishwasher in the kitchen at the Starved Rock Lodge–where the women were staying. There was some twine found in the kitchen that was similar to the kind of twine used to bind the victims.
But after surveying the evidence, the defendant’s attorneys found a piece of evidence in the file that the state had not used against him: a glove worn by Murphy containing a male hair. Test results obtained last summer from Virginia-based Bode Technology were clear: “Chester Weger is excluded as a possible contributor of the DNA profile obtained from sample,” Rolling Stone reported.
“In our opinion this evidence exonerates him,” wrongful conviction attorney Andy Hale told Shaw Local News Network in August 2022–adding that they would like to find out who the DNA on the glove actually belongs to. “In our opinion this evidence exonerates him.”
Last Friday, the defendant’s attorneys presented those findings and more in a petition filed with LaSalle County Judge Michael Jansz. They say Weger was framed, according to the Sun-Times.
The motion also alleges that expert testimony obtained by prosecutors said that a log used in the slayings did not come from the area. Additional weapons likely used to kill the women included a baseball bat and tire iron, the expert also said.
There’s also a mafia connection–part of an alleged plot by a relative of one of the women who arranged for them all to be killed.
According to the filing, interviewed witnesses said since-dead mobsters admitted to their involvement in the killings, confiding to at least one person about taking their victims’ blood-covered clothes and driving to another county to burn them.
That witness interview is said to dovetail with an Illinois State Police Report that documented a separate interview with a telephone operator who said she heard a perhaps-relevant conversation just after the killings. During that conversation, the operator told police, she heard two men discussing how to dispose of bloody clothing.
In 2022, Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, who was appointed the special prosecutor in the matter, denied an effort by Weger’s team to join their bid for the murder sentence to be vacated.
The latest effort to absolve the paroled man is being waged nonetheless.
“In my mind, his hair not being Chester Weger’s, combined with everything else that I’ve learned, is the final piece of the puzzle,” Hale told Rolling Stone last year. “In my mind, conclusively, he had nothing to do with these murders.”
The filing submitted late last week also contains allegations of impropriety at the time by law enforcement, the Sun-Times reports. According to the motion, a since-deceased LaSalle County state’s attorney shared reward money with two sheriff’s deputies and a polygraph examiner who was friends with one of the victims’ husbands. That reward, for finding the killer, was paid for by the husbands’ companies.
“The sheer hubris and impropriety of giving these men [money] is stunning,” the defendant’s latest petition reportedly argues. “[S]tate law prohibits prosecutors from receiving such awards.”
Law&Crime reached out to Hale for comment on the case.
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