Filmmaker, local author react to new DNA evidence in Chester Weger case

‘Closure is important,’ filmmaker says, but is concerned one piece doesn’t provide it

Chester Weger's attorney Andy Hale speaks inside the courtroom at the La Salle County Government Complex on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022 in Ottawa.

The filmmaker behind the Emmy-nominated, HBO documentary “The Murders at Starved Rock” wishes there was more than just one hair sample of evidence after 60 years.

After it was revealed Monday in La Salle County court a hair sample found on the glove of one of the victims in the 1960 Starved Rock Murders contained the DNA of a man, and it wasn’t Chester Weger, David Raccuglia believes closure in the case still is in the balance.

While he isn’t against further DNA testing and supports more of it, he isn’t sure what was gained with this strand of hair.

“I would love to know the truth in this case and I feel for the families,” said Raccuglia who narrated the HBO documentary and provided much of the footage. “Closure is important, you know? I just don’t think anything that happened (Monday) is a new event.”

Chester Weger, his family and his attorney Andy Hale speak outside the La Salle County Government Complex on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022 in Ottawa.

Raccuglia, whose father was the lead prosecutor during the 1960 murder trial, said at some point, the bar has to stop moving. There has to be a conclusion and what he doesn’t like is having only the DNA test after decades. He also believes Weger’s lawyer, Andy Hale, will want more tests done.

Raccuglia said he doesn’t have a strong opinion in either direction at this time on Weger’s innocence or guilt. His opinion lies with justice, after having spent much time re-examining the case himself.

“The Weger family are the nicest people and they truly, truly believe that Chester is innocent,” Raccuglia said. “They have a major commitment to clearing his name and they truly are kind and good people.”

“Starved Rock Murders” author Steve Stout said he stands with juries, judges, courts and families in believing Weger’s initial confessions.

“I believe that a real search for justice would include evidence that was used and presented in front of the jury at trial,” Stout said. “We didn’t see the attorneys test the binoculars? The camera? Why didn’t they test the murder weapon? Why didn’t they test supplies found on the women’s bodies?”

Stout said these are the materials Weger admitted to touching in his multiple confessions.

Weger confessed to the crime seven times and remains convicted, Stout said. Weger has since recanted those confessions, saying he was coerced into the statements.

“He was off work at the exact time of the murders,” Stout said. “The only time he’s off work all day is during the time of the murders.”

Stout said he predicted months ago this would be an effort to confuse people to say Weger’s DNA is not on the evidence, in an effort to say Weger can’t be guilty of the crime.

Stout also questioned the chain of custody of this strand of hair.

“That evidence spent 60 years on the top floor of the courthouse downtown,” Stout said. “They brought secretaries. They brought people into that room to see the evidence from the big Starved Rock Murders. I spent eight hours in that room two different times.”

DNA collected and examined included cigarette butts, hairs and pieces of string collected at various spots at the crime scene.