On March 14 1960, three Chicago-area women set out for a hike at Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Ill. They never returned. Here's a look back at their case and the man who was convicted of the crime.
March 14, 1960
Lillian Oetting, 50, Frances Murphy, 47, and Mildred Linquist, 50, leave their Riverside homes in suburban Chicago for a four-day vacation at Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois. They check into the Starved Rock Lodge and ate lunch before heading out on an afternoon hike through St. Louis Canyon, a popular attraction framed by a scenic waterfall and high rock walls. The women, wives of prominent Chicago businessmen, are never seen alive again.
March 15, 1960
Chester Weger, a 21-year-old dishwasher at Starved Rock Lodge who is married with two children, arrives at work with scratches on his face, lodge employees later tell police. Weger claims he was writing letters at the lodge at the time of the murders.
March 16, 1960
The women's bodies are discovered in a cave. They were bound, partially nude and bludgeoned to death, each having injuries consistent with suffering more than 100 blows. Authorities believe the killer or killers caused the catastrophic head injuries by swinging a frozen tree limb that was found nearby and stained with blood.
A third lie detector test given to Weger fails to link him in the crime.
Investigators begin nonstop surveillance on Weger after finding lengths of twine -- similar to that used to bind the hands of the slain women -- in a toolshed near the lodge, which had been used by Weger. They also say Weger matches the description of an assailant who reportedly bound a teenage girl with twine then raped her in a nearby park just months before the Starved Rock killings.
LaSalle County State's Attorney Harland Warren orders Weger's arrest.
Nov. 17, 1960
Weger confesses to the murders and leads investigators in a reenactment of them. Prosecutors said Weger knew things only the killer could have known, such as the fact that a red-and-white airplane flew over the canyon the day of the murders.
"I was taking a walk thru 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."
Weger says threats of electrocution and an offer of a "deal" by LaSalle County authorities impelled him to confess to the Starved Rock State Park triple murder.
Dec. 19, 1960
Claiming he was frightened into confessing by threats of death in the electric chair, Weger pleads not guilty in the Starved Rock State Park triple murder.
Feb. 7, 1961
Weger's 3-year-old daughter, Becky, is barred from attending her father's murder trial to prevent the jury from being swayed by her big blue eyes, golden curls and "winsome smile."
Feb. 27, 1961
After three hours of cross-examination, Weger denies any involvement in the murder of three women at Starved Rock State Park.
"I never killed anybody."
-- Chester Weger, testifying in LaSalle County Circuit Court
March 3, 1961
Weger is convicted in the murder of Lillian Oetting. The jury -- made up of seven women and five men -- fixes his punishment at life imprisonment. Two jurors become dismayed upon learning that Weger could be eligible for parole in 20 years. As he's led out of court, two sheriff's deputies report hearing Weger say, "You'll never hold me."
"We though we were inflicting a penalty worse than the electric chair."
-- Nancy Porter, a juror in the Chester Weger trial
While serving a life sentence, Weger pens an autobiography and gives the 48-page manuscript to a Chicago Tribune reporter. In it, Weger proclaims his innocence.
"Now there's nothing in the world that I needed bad enough to kill for on March 14, 1960."
-- Chester Weger, in his handwritten autobiography
July 8, 2004
DNA testing on items, including Weger's coat and hair found in the victims' fists, shows the evidence has been contaminated. After Weger's conviction in 1961, and after appeals were exhausted, prosecutors allowed school groups, civic clubs and student journalists to handle and examine the evidence.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich denies Weger's clemency petition.
Dec. 15, 2016
Weger, Illinois' third longest-held inmate in a state prison, is denied parole in an 11-2 vote.
Nov. 29, 2018
Weger falls one vote short of winning his release from prison -- his 23rd time denied parole.
Weger is granted parole on his 24th try, in a 9-4 vote. State officials are seeking to have Weger evaluated under the state's sexually violent persons law, which allows for continued civil commitment if a person is deemed sexually violent.
Mary Pruett - the younger sister of Chester Weger - quotes her deceased mom while pleading with the Illinois Prisoner Review Board for his release in the infamous 1960 Starved Rock murders. “One day we’ll see him walking home. I just hope my brother does not die in prison.” pic.twitter.com/aq2S8Cs81H
Weger's release from prison had been delayed 90 days after Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul's office sought to have him evaluated under the state's Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act. The law requires proof that a person suffers from a mental disorder, and that it is substantially probable he or she will commit acts of sexual violence as a result.
A spokesperson for Raoul's office said experts who evaluated Weger found he did not meet the legal criteria, and so they will not file a petition in court arguing he should be involuntarily committed. Under the law, Weger could have been held indefinitely in a secured facility in the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services for sex offender treatment.
Weger is expected to leave Pinckneyville Correctional Center on Feb. 21.