SYCAMORE – DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell and Public Defender Regina Harris have reached an agreement that will allow some of the remains of Antinette "Toni" Keller to be released so her family can hold a memorial service.
The agreement was announced Friday afternoon during a court hearing at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore. The remains will be released in seven to 10 days.
The family has not yet held a memorial service for Keller.
"We waited intentionally until we had Toni," said Mary Tarling, a cousin of Keller's and spokeswoman for the Keller family. "She needs to be at her own memorial."
None of the Keller family members were in court Friday, but Campbell said he had spoken to her father earlier in the day.
"It goes without saying they are looking forward to the day they can take their daughter home," he said. "As a father myself talking to a father, you could hear in Mr. Keller's voice that he's been waiting for this for a long time."
A memorial has not yet been set, but Tarling said it is the family's intention to invite anyone who wants to come. "We will notify everyone who has been patient and compassionate with us," she said.
Keller, an 18-year-old Northern Illinois University student, disappeared last October after telling friends she was going to take a walk in Prairie Park. Her burned remains were later found in the park, and a DeKalb man, William "Billy" Curl, has been charged with her murder.
Campbell said some of the remains have to be maintained for evidence at trial, but he believed there are enough remains to allow those with evidentiary value to be preserved while releasing others to provide some comfort to the Keller family.
During a status hearing earlier this week, Harris – who is representing Curl – said she was hopeful an agreement would be reached. She had asked a forensic anthropologist who is an expert in burnt remains to review detailed photographs and determine whether all of the remains needed to be maintained for potential evidentiary value.
Curl, 34, has been held in the DeKalb County Jail on a more than $5 million bond since his arrest in October. He has been arraigned on five counts of first-degree murder, one count of concealing a homicidal death, one count of arson and one count of criminal sexual assault in Keller’s death. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Keller, who was 18 at the time of her death, was last seen Oct. 14 on the NIU campus, when she told friends she intended to take a walk in Prairie Park. Remains were found in the park Oct. 16, but they were burned too badly for positive identification. It took forensic analysts about a week to determine the remains were human, but they still could not be identified.
The DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office announced Jan. 6 that the remains had been positively identified through DNA testing as those of Keller.