Chester Weger, paroled last year in the infamous Starved Rock killings after nearly six decades in prison, has won court approval to test evidence found at the scene of the 1960 murders in his effort to prove his innocence.
LaSalle County Judge Michael Jansz ruled Tuesday that cigarette butts, hair and string can be tested.
Weger has said he didn’t kill anyone and that testing the evidence could prove it.
His attorney Andrew Hale says DNA testing on hairs found on the victims could rule out Weger 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, appointed special prosecutor in the case, also had opposed the request.
Weger, 82, was convicted of killing Lillian Oetting, 50, but wasn’t tried in the killings of her friends Mildred Lindquist, 50, and Frances Murphy, 47. The women, all from the Chicago area, were killed while hiking in the popular state park 100 miles southwest of Chicago while on vacation.
Weger — who worked at a lodge where they were staying — confessed to killing Oetting but quickly recanted, saying his statement was coerced by investigators.
After years of rejections, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board paroled Weger last year, saying he’d been a model prisoner. But the courts haven’t deemed him to be innocent of the killings.
At the time of his release, he was the longest-serving inmate in Illinois’ prisons.
Weger’s legal team includes Microtrace, an Elgin forensics lab whose work has helped identify serial killers in Seattle and Atlanta.