The Murders At Starved Rock is spotlighting the murder of Lillian Oetting by Chester Weger, who authorities believe may have killed Mildred Lindquist and Frances Murphy.
Weger was a 21-year-old married father of two, working as a dishwasher at the Starved Rock Lodge near Utica, Illinois.
On March 14, 1960, Oetting, 50, and her friends, Lindquist, 50, and Murphy, 47, who were on a four-day vacation, arrived at the hotel.
They checked in, ate lunch, and then went for a hike at Starved Rock State Park.
Two days later, the three women were found dead. Their partially nude bodies were found bound in a cave.
An autopsy later revealed that they had been beaten to death.
A frozen, bloodstained tree branch found nearby was deemed to be the murder weapon.
Weger was suspected of the killings after hotel employees told police they noticed scratches on his face when he arrived at work—a day after the murders.
Detectives kept Chester Weger under tight surveillance
While searching surrounding areas, investigators found twine inside a tool shed adjacent to the hotel.
They later uncovered that the twine, a similar material to the material used to bind Oetting and her two friends, had been used by Weger.
But it wasn’t until after he failed a series of polygraph tests that LaSalle County State’s Attorney Harland Warren issued a warrant for his arrest.
Chester Weger confessed to the murders, then later recanted
On November 17, 1960, Weger confessed to the killings of Lillian Oetting, Mildred Lindquist, and Frances Murphy. He then went on to describe in detail what he had done to the women.
He said, “I was taking a walk through the woods when I turned into the canyon and I spotted them coming toward me. I got the idea to rob them.”
“I grabbed at what I thought was a purse one of the women was carrying. The strap broke.”
Investigators stated that Weger also divulged information about the murders that no one would know unless they were there.
The day after his confession, Weger was charged with the murders. And before he was set to go to trial, he recanted his statement.
Weger said he did not kill those women. He added that he confessed to the triple murders after LaSalle County authorities threatened that he would be sent to the electric chair.
He also stated that he was promised a deal.
On March 3, 1961, a jury convicted Weger of murdering Oetting. Then, a judge sentenced him to life in prison the following month.
The prosecutors in the case did not try him for the murders of Lindquist and Murphy.
Chester Weger is released from prison
In 2020, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board agreed to release Weger from prison following a 9-4 vote.
They had rejected many of his parole requests before that.
On February 21, 2020, Weger was released from the Pinckneyville Correctional Center after serving nearly 60 years.
He was 80 years old at the time.
Two years later, his attorney presented new evidence in the case that could prove his innocence.
The results from a DNA test on hair found on the victim’s gloves revealed that it did not match Weger.
They have yet to find a match, but if they do, Weger’s attorney hopes it will exonerate him.
The Murders At Starved Rock airs on Thursday at 8/7c on Investigation Discovery.