brutal beating | 

New evidence suggests man jailed for 60 years for murder of Irish woman could be innocent

Lillian Oetting (50) who was born in Northern Ireland, was murdered along with two friends in Illinois.

Lillian Oetting (50) was born in Northern Ireland. She was murdered along with two friends at Starved Rock State Park, Illinois in 1960.

Frances Murphy & Mildred Lindquist.

Chester Weger | Source: HBO

Clodagh MeaneySunday World

New evidence has suggested that a man who spent 60 years in prison for the murder of an Irish woman could be innocent.

Lillian Oetting (50) who was born in Northern Ireland, was murdered along with two friends at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois.

Oetting, Frances Murphy (47) and Mildred Lindquist (50) were visiting the area from Chicago in March 1960.

The trio checked into their hotel, the Starved Rock Lodge, and headed for an afternoon hike but never returned.

Their disappearances went unnoticed until two days later when Murphy’s husband called the hotel to ask after his wife after she failed to get in touch with him.

After searching the park, the women’s partially naked bodies were discovered bound with twine inside a cave at the canyon.

Frances Murphy & Mildred Lindquist.

The three women died from severe head trauma, the murder weapon - a tree trunk, lay near their bodies.

An employee at the hotel, Chester Weger, was interviewed by police after the bodies were found.

His colleagues noted to officers that Weger showed up to work on the day after the disappearance with ‘scorch marks’ on his face.

He was interviewed about the fatal beatings for weeks on end, and passed the three lie-detector tests police administered.

Despite protesting his innocence officers continued their interrogation and sought to pin the crime on Weger as he fit the description of a suspect who bound a teenage girl with twine and raped her at a nearby State Park months prior.

Weger was later picked out of a photo line-up by the victim.

The twine used to bind the three deceased women was the same twine found in the lodge.

He subsequently failed a fourth lie-detector test, police deciding at this point to covertly survaile him.

After further questioning in November of 1960, Weger confessed to the crime and re-enacted the crime scene for officers.

Chester Weger | Source: HBO

Just days later he recanted his confession, stating that it was given under duress.

Following a trial in early 1961, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life behind bars.

He was imprisoned at Pinckneyville Correctional Centre, and at one point he was the longest serving inmate in prison in Illinois as well as the third longest in the state’s history before he was granted parole in 2020.

During his time behind bars, Weger protested his innocence.

Now 83-years-old Weger is set on proving that he was not the killer.

A LaSalle County court heard that a hair found on the glove of one of the women does not belong to Weger.

Speaking to Rolling Stone he said: “It’s wonderful.”

“I knew it would be coming some day.”

“I’m innocent,” he said. “I was innocent. I wanna be vacated,” he said pleading for his name to be cleared before he dies.

The next step in overturning his conviction will involve his defense attorney pleading Weger’s case to the district attorney.

The Murders at Starved Rock were the subject of a 2021 HBO documentary of the same name.

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