Nearly six decades after he was sentenced, Chester Weger was released Friday from the Pickneyville Correctional Center.
The 80-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison for the killing of one of three suburban Chicago women whose bodies were found in Starved Rock State Park. Weger was granted parole in November on his 24th try.
Weger maintained his innocence in an interview with KFVS-12, a CBS TV affiliate of Cape Girardeau, Mo.
"They ruined my life," Weger said of the conviction.
Weger was convicted in 1961 of killing of Lillian Oetting, 50. Her remains were found at Starved Rock State Park in March 1960 along with the bodies of Frances Murphy, 47, and Mildred Lindquist, 50. The three women, who were hiking together, were found bound, partially nude and bludgeoned to death near the park's popular St. Louis Canyon, which is framed by a scenic waterfall and a 100-foot wall.
Weger, who turns 81 in the coming weeks and suffers from asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, will live and receive support services at St. Leonard’s Ministries in Chicago. As a veteran, he will receive Social Security benefits and medical coverage from Veterans Affairs, his attorneys said.
Weger also told media Friday he didn't think "this day would come" and he was going to spend time with his relatives. He thanked supporters, calling Friday "a good day."
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. That law allows the state to hold people indefinitely in a secured facility in the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services for sex offender treatment if an evaluation deems that necessary.
Experts who conducted Weger’s evaluation concluded that he didn’t meet the legal criteria for the law to apply, a spokeswoman for Raoul said last week.
Granddaughters of the slain women have spoken out publicly against Weger’s planned release, as has the La Salle County state’s attorney. But his supporters insist he poses no threat to public safety.
“I don’t believe anyone who has ever talked to this man believes he’s going to go out and hurt anyone," Celeste Stack, one of Weger's attorneys, told the Chicago Tribune.
Weger won’t be able to go near Starved Rock State Park.
Though the Illinois Prisoner Review Board wouldn’t confirm it, an attorney with knowledge of the Illinois corrections system said Weger’s terms of release would include a provision keeping him away from the scene of the 1960 triple murder.
“The Prisoner Review Board does have the authority to issue certain conditions as part of release, which generally include, foremost, no contact with victims, but somewhat routinely includes not returning to the scene of the crime, or possibly even the entire county of conviction,” said the attorney, who spoke on condition of anonymity.