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Man Convicted in Starved Rock Murders, Freed From Prison

Chester Weger, convicted in the infamous Starved Rock State Park murders decades ago, was released from prison on February 21. 

Mr. Weger, who had been serving a life sentence, was granted parole by the Illinois Prison Review Board in November 2019. Hale and Monico represented Mr. Weger in his most recent parole bid. 

He was convicted after confessing to the murder of Lillian Oetting at Starved Rock State Park in 1960. Ms. Oetting, 50, was on a short vacation with two friends, Frances Murphy, 47, and Mildred Lindquist, 50. The three women were attacked and fatally beaten during a hike in broad daylight. 

Although Mr. Weger recanted his confession, prosecutors relied on it to argue that Weger bound the women with twine and bludgeoned them to death with a frozen tree branch. The jury voted to convict him and sentenced him to life in prison instead of imposing the death penalty. Prosecutors decided not to try him on the other counts, citing his life sentence. 

After repeatedly denying Weger parole for decades, the board voted in favor of his release because of his age, fragile health, lengthy incarceration and lack of disciplinary action against him in prison. Upon his release from prison last Friday morning, Mr. Weger maintained his innocence.

“They locked me up for something I’ve never done,” said Weger.

Attorneys Andy Hale and Celeste Stack handled Mr. Weger’s parole bid. They have previously noted that his arrest and conviction were based on tactics that are now banned by the U.S. Supreme Court: Weger did not receive Miranda Warnings, he was arrested without probable cause and denied exculpatory evidence.

Ms. Stack described the scene for reporters as Mr. Weger walked out of prison.

“It was very emotional and everybody had tears in their eyes,” she said. 

His defense team is now working on seeking to vacate Mr. Weger’s conviction. In the meantime, “We expect him to enjoy what’s left of his time with his family,” Stack said.