The Starved Rock Murders: Chester Weger’s Controversial Conviction

In the early spring of 1960, Starved Rock State Park in Illinois became the haunting backdrop to brutal murders that would forever etch the place in the annals of crime history. Three women—Frances Murphy, Lillian Oetting, and Mildred Lindquist—were victims of a heinous crime that shocked the community and led to the arrest and conviction of a man named Chester Weger.

The Murders

On a fateful day in March 1960, the tranquility of Starved Rock State Park was shattered as the three women ventured into its scenic trails, only to meet a tragic end.

Lillian Oetting, Frances Murphy, and Mildred Linquist went for a four-day getaway at Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois.

After checking into the Starved Rock Lodge and enjoying lunch, they embark on an afternoon hike through St. Louis Canyon. That was the last time they were seen alive. Days later, they were found bound and bludgeoned to death inside a cave in the canyon.

Chester Weger: The Suspect

Chester Weger, a dishwasher employed at the lodge, soon emerged as a prime suspect. He had several brushes with the law in the past, so the police’s eyes were on him.

Authorities have found twine similar to what was used to bind the victims in a tool shed near the lodge, which was said to be used by Weger.

He also matched the profile of an attacker who restrained a teenage boy and girl using twine and subsequently sexually assaulted her in September 1959 at the nearby Matthiessen State Park.

Confession and Retraction

After finding the length of the twine, the police summoned Weger for further questioning. He eventually confessed to the murders and led the police in the reenactment of the crime at the scene.

However, he recanted his confession a few days later after he was appointed a public defender. He was later convicted of the murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Release

He was consistently denied parole over the years until, in 2019, on his 24th try, he was finally granted one after almost 60 years. But his release from prison was delayed after Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office sought to have him evaluated under the state’s Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act. He was finally released on February 21, 2020.

New DNA Evidence

After his release, a hair that was found on the glove of one of the victims did not match Weger’s DNA. Weger took this as further proof of his innocence and is working to overturn his conviction to clear his name.

Public Opinion and Media Influence

The Starved Rock Murders and Weger’s subsequent conviction have captured the public’s imagination for over six decades. Media coverage has played a significant role in shaping public perception, with some viewing Weger as a victim of a flawed justice system and others as a rightful inmate serving time for a brutal crime.

Chester Weger was the subject of the book “The Starved Rock Murders”, published in 1982 by Steve Stout. In an interview, the author said that he still believes Weger was guilty.

In December 2021, HBO released a three-part docu-series, “The Murders at the Starved Rock”, which explores the crime and doubts that haunted the son of the prosecutor in the case.