Crime & Courts

Evidence in Starved Rock murders heads to the crime lab Dec. 9

Status hearing set for Feb. 8

A few pieces of evidence from the 1960 Starved Rock murders case are scheduled to be handled, packaged and labeled Dec. 9 for a trip to the crime lab.

Lawyers for Chester Weger and a special prosecutor appeared Tuesday for a status hearing on Weger’s bid to have old evidence in his murder case submitted for fresh testing. Weger, who had personally attended recent hearings, was not present Tuesday.

The bulk of the 30-minute hearing was procedural, with lawyers quibbling over the wording of an order needed to move the evidence from vault to lab.

“I think we’re really close to an agreement,” Weger attorney Celeste Stack said.

Judge Michael C. Jansz approved the resulting order and the lawyers then entered a closed-door conference with the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office. When they emerged, the lawyers confirmed a Dec. 9 conference where the evidence will, under supervision, be readied for transfer and laboratory analysis.

When the lab renders any findings is another matter, and likely to spill into 2022. Jansz set a Feb. 8 status hearing, at which time results could be disclosed.

Weger, who was paroled in 2019 after serving six decades for murder, has repeatedly argued for new forensic analysis and finally prevailed at an Oct. 26 hearing. Then, Jansz gave the OK for eight exhibits to be reexamined.

These include cigarette butts, hairs and pieces of string collected at various spots at the crime scene. (Jansz has since permitted hair samples from the victims to be analyzed for comparative purposes.)

Weger was convicted of murdering Lillian Oetting in 1960 at Starved Rock State Park. Weger also confessed at that time to killing Oetting’s two companions, but he has since recanted those statements.