The man long known as the "Starved Rock killer" says he deserves to be paroled after more than 40 years behind bars because he didn't commit the crime. Chester Weger, now 70, told a state parole official on Wednesday that he was working at the time when authorities say three women were killed in March 1960 at Starved Rock State Park near Utica.
The man long known as the "Starved Rock killer" says he deserves to be paroled after more than 40 years behind bars because he didn't commit the crime.
Chester Weger, now 70, told a state parole official on Wednesday that he was working at the time when authorities say three women were killed in March 1960 at Starved Rock State Park near Utica.
Someone else is guilty of the murders, Weger and five of his family members said, but they're not sure of that person's identity. They made the comments to Prisoner Review Board member Thomas Johnson, who conducted the board's customary interview of an inmate seeking parole.
Weger was convicted of beating to death Lillian Oetting, a suburban Chicago woman who had gone to the park with Frances Murphy and Mildred Lindquist. Their bodies were found in St. Louis Canyon.
Authorities have said they believe Weger, who worked as a dishwasher at the park, killed all three women. He was convicted only in Oetting's murder.
But some have questioned whether Weger was wrongfully convicted. His supporters say the evidence against him was weak and that police forced him to confess. Weger later recanted the confession.
His sister, Mary Pruett, said Wednesday that people have been "coming out of the woodwork" with information that could help her brother and should have been disclosed long ago.
A recently acquired affidavit, for instance, vouches for the authenticity of a document that suggests there was a plan to frame Weger, she said. The document's author isn't known.
Weger said Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions has shown an interest in his case. An employee there later confirmed that, but said the center isn't representing him at this point.
The Center on Wrongful Convictions has gained a national reputation for its efforts to free inmates who are in prison for crimes they didn't commit. Past clients include Gordon "Randy" Steidl, who was convicted in the 1986 murders of Karen and Dyke Rhoads in the central Illinois town of Paris. He spent 12 years on death row, but eventually was exonerated and freed.
The center also represented Tabitha Pollock, who got a 36-year prison sentence because her boyfriend beat her 3-year-old daughter to death in 1995 in Henry County. Prosecutors had argued she knew or should have known the child was in danger, but the Illinois Supreme Court ruled there was no evidence against her. She was freed in 2002.
When the Prisoner Review Board considered – and denied – Weger's parole request last year, some board members acknowledged he might have been wrongly convicted. But they said that issue must be settled in court.
Johnson made a similar comment on Wednesday as he concluded the interview, advising Weger and his family to make sure the Prisoner Review Board has all the documents it needs before deciding on parole.
"Our board is not a trial board," he said. "We do not retry cases."
The full Prisoner Review Board will decide later whether to grant parole to Weger, an inmate at Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mount Sterling.
Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or email@example.com.