Starved Rock Killer Wins Approval For DNA Tests

by T. C. Mayfield, The Chicago Times

October 28, 2021

Chester Otto Weger, The Starved Rock Killer.

OTTAWA, IL – Chester Otto Weger, 82, who was released from prison last year after nearly 60 years since being found guilty for the slaying of one of three suburban Chicago women has won court approval for DNA testing of evidence discovered at the crime scene.

A LaSalle County judge ruled Tuesday that cigarette butts, hair, and string found at the crime scene at Starved Rock State Park can be tested.  According to Weger’s lawyer, DNA testing on hairs found on the victims could rule out his client as the murderer.

In March 1960, Frances Murphy, 47, Mildred Lindquist, 47, and Lillian Oetting, 50, took a four-day trip to Starved Rock State Park located in LaSalle County, Illinois along the banks of the Illinois River.  All three women were married to prominent Chicago businessmen and lived in Riverside, a Chicago suburb 90 miles northeast of the park.

Frances Murphy, Mildred Lindquist, & Lillian Oetting

After checking into the Starved Rock Lodge on March 14, the three women went on an afternoon hike through St. Louis Canyon, but never returned.  Their disappearances went unnoticed until March 16, when Frances Murphy’s husband called the lodge to inquire about his wife.  Police organized a search of the park, which resulted in the discovery of the women’s bodies, bound with twine and partially undressed, inside a canyon cave.  All three women suffered severe head trauma, and it was determined that a blood-stained tree limb found nearby was used to bludgeon them to death.

Weger, a dishwasher at the Starved Rock Lodge, was interviewed by Illinois State Police following the discovery.  Several lodge employees told investigators that Weger showed up to work the day after the women went missing with scratches on his face.  Weger was interrogated in the weeks following the murders and he passed three lie detector tests.  However, because of Weger’s previous run-ins with the law, investigators continued to pursue him.  Weger matched the description of an assailant who had bound a teenage girl with twine and raped her months earlier at nearby Matthiessen State Park and was later identified by the victim in a photo line-up.  The twine used to bind the murder victims was the same as that discovered in the lodge’s kitchen, and he failed another lie detector test in September.  As a result, investigators placed him under constant surveillance.

On November 16, the LaSalle County State’s Attorney ordered Weger arrested and brought in for further questioning.  Weger confessed to the murders the next day after a lengthy interrogation and led police in a reenactment at the crime scene.  Weger later recanted his confession, claiming it was made under duress after being threatened by interrogators.

A grand jury indicted Weger for all three murders, as well as the rape and robbery at Matthiessen State Park, but the state chose only to prosecute him for the murder of Lillian Oetting.

On February 13, 1961, Weger’s trial began. Weger’s defense relied on the claim that investigators were relentless in extracting a confession and that he was told that if he didn’t, they would convict him on circumstantial evidence and send him to the electric chair.  Weger claimed he was washing dishes at the time of the murders before going to the lodge’s basement, and explained the scratches on his face in the days following the murders were caused by shaving.  The FBI’s analysis of bloodstains found on Weger’s leather jacket was inconclusive as to whether they were human or animal.

On March 3, 1961, the jury returned a guilty verdict and sentenced Weger to life in prison, rejecting the state’s request for the death penalty.  Weger was sentenced on April 3 and began serving his time at the Illinois State Penitentiary in Joliet.  His attorney filed an appeal, which was heard by the Illinois Supreme Court, but the verdict was upheld in September 1962.

On November 21, 2019, the same board voted 9–4 to release Weger from prison after nearly 59 years and was transferred to a Chicago mission that assists parolees in rehabilitation.  Weger was released on February 21, 2020, after a 90-day delay while the Illinois Attorney General sought an evaluation under the state’s Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act.

Deere & Co. Workers Declare Strike

by Sloan T. Wilson, The Chicago Times

October 14, 2021

MOLINE, IL — More than 10,000 Deere & Co. employees went on strike Thursday after the company allegedly “failed to present an agreement that met” union members’ expectations and needs.

The United Auto Workers union warned its members, who want a better standard of living, retirement benefits, and a better work environment, will walk off the job Oct. 13 at 11:59 p.m. if a settlement was not struck.

However, a large majority of union members, over 90%, rejected a tentative agreement struck by the union and John Deere earlier this week, despite the fact that it would have provided 5% raises to certain workers and 6% rises to others.

Local leaders are concerned about the walkout, which affects approximately 14 Deere operations across the United States.  The Deere manufacturing factories are key contributors to the local economy, so officials hope any strike is brief.

There was no comment from Deere & Co. officials if strikebreakers would be called to take up the slack or as an attempt to oust the UAW from Deere & Co.

Illinois Receives 2 Bids In Sale Of Dilapidated Thompson Center

by Sloan T. Wilson, The Chicago Times

October 12, 2021

CHICAGO — According to state authorities, two offers have been received for the 1.2 million square-foot Thompson Center at 100 W. Randolph St.

The specifics of the ideas will not be published until a winning plan is chosen.  J. B. Pritzker, the governor, is likely to select one of the bids before the end of the year.  The transaction might be completed as early as April 2022.

In May, Pritzker issued Requests for Proposals for the sale of the Thompson Center.

“The sale of the Thompson Center has been discussed for nearly 20 years and we are taking another important step to making it a reality . . . selling the property provides a unique opportunity to maximize taxpayer savings, create thousands of union jobs, generate millions of dollars in real estate taxes to benefit the City of Chicago and spur economic development.” Pritzker said in a statement.

According to the state, bringing the 1.2 million square foot facility up to date would cost more than $325 million.  Additionally, it is estimated maintenance and restoration would exceed $525 million by 2026.

Illinois rents office space in seven Chicago Loop locations for $21.3 million per year in base rent and operational expenditures.  The state now occupies roughly 780,000 square feet of Thompson Center space.

The Thompson Center, designed by the late Helmut Jahn, opened in 1985 and encompasses a whole city block of valuable real estate.

Joliet West High School Out Of Control

by T. C. Mayfield, The Chicago Times

October 5, 2021

JOLIET, IL – Some concerned parents want out of Joliet school district as a result of increased violence against students and staff.

As of today, Joliet West High School has seen 70 suspensions and one arrest.  Prompting the school board to convene a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the issue.

In a sickening display of disrespect and complete breakdown of discipline, the principal of Joliet West High School, Teresa Gibson, was assaulted by students when attempting to break up a fight.  Students took footage of the assault and failed to intervene.

Superintendent Karla Guseman described it as “embarrassing and harmful to the community.”

She prepared a letter in which she reminded students and parents that fighting and videotaping are grounds for expulsion from school.

The letter says, in part: “You incite violence and have a detrimental impact on the children who are here to learn.  We recognize that you may have been affected by the pandemic, but this does not excuse your behavior.  In our classrooms, your acts will not be tolerated.” Guseman wrote.

The district is taking initiatives to reduce tardiness and keep pupils in their classrooms rather than the hallways.

PREPARE TO PAY: NATURAL GAS PRICES PREDICTED TO SKYROCKET BY HUNDREDS

by Sloan T. Wilson

October 4, 2021

SPRINGFIELD, IL — According to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, natural gas customers in Chicago and the suburbs will be forced to shell out hundreds of dollars more during the upcoming heating season.

Natural gas prices are rising across the country and around the world.  But that is only part of the reason Chicago residents’ utility bills are expected to rise by 35% to 50%.

Consumer advocates point out that roughly one-third of Chicagoans are currently not paying their gas utility bills since a change in state law in 2013 in which allowed natural gas utilities to tack on infrastructure improvement costs to consumer monthly bills.

Lower natural gas prices in recent years have helped to conceal this, but that is about to change, resulting in some very unpleasant sticker shock for those who heat with gas.

According to Crain’s, the cost of gas will rise to $938 for Chicagoans and $693 for suburban residents this heating season.

ATTEMPTED KIDNAPPING IN WINFIELD

by T. C. Mayfield, The Chicago Times

October 1, 2021

WINFIELD, IL — Winfield police are seeking for a person who attempted to kidnap a victim on Tuesday night.

According to WPD, the incident occurred around 6:40 p.m. near the walking route at the east end of Beecher Avenue.  The victim was walking in the neighborhood when a white male between the ages of 25 and 35 with dark hair and dark eyes approached her from behind and began chasing her.

The suspect was dressed in a black long sleeve shirt, dark pants, black shoes, and a black hat at the time of the crime, according to police.

The victim last saw the suspect walking westbound on Beecher Avenue toward Church Street.

The Winfield Police Department is seeking anyone who lives near Beecher Avenue and has outside video surveillance to review their footage between 6:15 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 28.

If you notice any questionable activity, please notify Corporal Caringella at (630) 933-7160.