CHICAGO (AP) — A man freed from prison last year after serving nearly 60 years in the slaying of one of three suburban Chicago women found bludgeoned to death in a state park has won court approval for DNA testing of evidence found at the crime scene.
Chester Weger, 82, has maintained that he didn't kill anyone and that testing the evidence could prove that he is innocent of the 1960 killings at northern Illinois' Starved Rock State Park.
LaSalle County Judge Michael Jansz ruled Tuesday that cigarette butts, hair and string found at the crime scene can be tested, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Weger's attorney, Andrew Hale, said DNA testing on hairs found on the victims could rule out his client as the killer. If that were to happen, Weger could seek to have his conviction vacated.
LaSalle County prosecutors have opposed the testing, saying it’s a “fishing expedition” and that the evidence wasn’t stored properly over the years. Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, who was appointed special prosecutor in the case, also had opposed the request.
Weger was 21 at the time of the killings and employed as a dishwasher at a lodge where the three women were staying. He initially confessed to killing all three and reenacted their slayings. He later recanted his confession, claiming innocence and saying prosecutors coerced him to confess to a crime he didn’t commit.
Weger was convicted of killing Oetting, but prosecutors chose not to try him for the deaths of Mildred Lindquist, 50, and Frances Murphy, 47, after he was sentenced to life in prison in 1961.
The three friends had been hiking at the popular park 100 miles (161 kilometers) southwest of Chicago while on vacation when they were slain in March 1960. Each had been bludgeoned more than 100 times.
Weger was released from prison in February 2020, three months after the Illinois Prisoner Review Board granted him parole on his 24th try, saying he’d been a model prisoner. But the courts haven’t deemed him to be innocent of the killings.
Weger's legal team includes Microtrace, an Elgin forensics lab whose work has helped identify serial killers in Seattle and Atlanta.