An 80-year-old man, who spent nearly 60 years in prison after being convicted of killing one of three women whose brutalized bodies were found at Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County, arrived at a Chicago rehab center Friday in the hours following his release from prison.
Chester Weger emerged from Pinckneyville Correctional Center Friday morning, still insisting he was innocent and had been framed by detectives and prosecutors.
Weger was accused in the 1960 slayings of 50-year-old Lillian Oetting, 47-year-old Frances Murphy and 50-year-old Mildred Lindquist. The women were hiking together in Starved Rock State Park in northern Illinois when they were attacked. Their remains were found in the park's popular St. Louis Canyon, which is framed by a scenic waterfall and a 100-foot wall. Each of them had been bludgeoned more than 100 times.
A break in the investigation came when detectives determined that the cord used to bind the women's hands matched twine from a spool in the kitchen of the Starved Rock Lodge, where Weger, then 21, worked as a dishwasher.
Wegner initially confessed to beating the women to death with a frozen tree branch during a botched robbery attempt and even took detectives to the park to reenact the killings.
But he later recanted, claiming he was innocent and that prosecutors had coerced him into confessing.
Weger was only convicted in Oetting's killing. Prosecutors chose not to try him for the two other women's deaths after he was sentenced to life in prison in 1961.
Weger was granted parole in November on his 24th try. His release was delayed for 90 days because Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office sought to have him evaluated under the state’s Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act.
Weger will live and receive support at St. Leonard's Ministries on Chicago's Near West Side. Outside the rehab center Friday night, Weger's nieces told NBC 5 he was exhausted following the trip from Pinckneyville Correctional Center in far Southern Illinois.
"He's very happy to be out," said niece, Nita Freeman. "It's been a really good day... really long day."
Weger's other niece, Carrie, said they had been waiting their whole lifetime for their uncle's release.
"It's hard to describe... it's been a long time coming," she said.
In a statement, Andy Hale, Weger's attorney, said his law firm was pleased that Weger was released into the "arms of his devoted family, who have waited decades for this day."
"Chester was convicted 60 years ago, before many basic safeguards like Miranda warnings existed, and we are grateful that he will is now free, will be able to enjoy time with his family, come up to speed on decades of societal and technological advances, and enjoy other very basic freedoms that he has been without for 60 years," Hale added.