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Curl told police 3 different stories about Keller

Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – The DeKalb man accused of killing a Northern Illinois University student in 2010 gave police varying statements about what happened, according to prosecutors handling the case.

During a hearing Tuesday at the DeKalb County Courthouse, Prosecutor Phil Montgomery said William “Billy” Curl gave police three different statements during the course of the investigation into the October 2010 disappearance and death of Antinette “Toni” Keller.

After first telling police he didn’t know anything related to Keller’s death, Curl later said he came upon Keller – who was already dead – in Prairie Park in DeKalb. When some of her blood stained his clothes, Curl said he panicked and burned her body, Montgomery said.

A third statement Curl gave police detailed him approaching Keller in the park while she appeared to be under the influence of the drug ecstasy. Curl told police that while the two had consensual sex, Keller had a seizure and died, Montgomery said.

Curl, 35, was indicted in January 2011 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 relation to Keller’s death. His trial is scheduled to start June 11.

The differing accounts are the first details authorities have shared publicly about what authorities say Curl told them after he was questioned. They were disclosed at the Tuesday hearing held to address pretrial motions filed by prosecutors and Curl’s attorney, public defender Regina Harris. The hearing will continue Thursday.

Other motions request barring the defense from bringing up specific information about Keller. Attorneys agreed Keller’s sexual history will not be brought up during the trial.

Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert did not decide Tuesday whether Keller’s reported history of drug use would be admissible at trial. Montgomery said Harris had evidence Keller spent time in rehab for a marijuana addiction.

Montgomery argued there’s no evidence Keller was on drugs at the time of her death and it’s not relevant whether she had a past addiction to marijuana.

Harris said introducing such information about Keller could corroborate a statement Curl made to police about Keller having ecstasy that he watched her take before her death.

Another motion filed by the state asked the court to allow prosecutors to bring up that Curl fled from DeKalb in October 2010 after being questioned by police about Keller.

It was granted without any argument.

A fourth motion from the state requested that a prior complaint of sexual abuse against Curl be allowed for discussion in court. Prosecutor Stephanie Klein said Curl was not charged in 1995, when he reportedly kissed and fondled a woman in the bathroom of a house before the woman was able to get away.

Klein said the similarities between that incident and the situation with Keller warrant the need to have the woman testify to show Curl’s propensity to commit such crimes.

Harris argued the woman was under the influence of alcohol and did not wish to pursue charges, and the situation was not fully investigated. Stuckert said she would have a decision on that motion Thursday.

Stuckert did rule on a motion filed by Harris last week, which sought to ban a support gathering referred to as “Summoning the Yellow” in memory of Keller on the courthouse lawn during the trial.

“Summoning the Yellow” is an effort mentioned on the Missing Antinette Keller Facebook page to support the Keller family during the trial by wearing yellow and gathering on the courthouse lawn.

Harris said any sort of support gathering for Keller is also in opposition to Curl, and it could affect potential jurors as they enter the courthouse.

Stuckert did not grant that request, saying she’s not inclined to issue such an order and doesn’t believe she has the authority to do so for something planned on the courthouse lawn.

She did say that if a support gathering should occur, the issue will be addressed with each individual juror and could delay the jury selection process, which will be conducted in judge’s chambers with one potential juror interviewed at a time.

After the hearing, Harris said a judge has to weigh freedom of speech and freedom to assemble with a defendant’s right to a fair trial, but she has to ask for such an order regardless.

Another of Harris’ motions asked the court to prevent the state from bringing up Curl’s prior convictions of possession of drug paraphernalia in 2004, violation of bail bond in 2004, and criminal damage to property in 2000. That motion was granted without any argument.

Keller was last seen Oct. 14, 2010, when she told friends she intended to take a walk in Prairie Park. Burned remains were found in the park two days later, and it took forensic analysts about a week to determine they were human.

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