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Crime & Courts

Curl wants 5 murder counts against him dismissed

SYCAMORE – The man accused of killing Northern Illinois University student Antinette “Toni” Keller asked a judge Tuesday to throw out the murder indictments against him.

During a hearing Tuesday at the DeKalb County Courthouse, William “Billy” Curl, 36, of DeKalb, appeared in court via closed-circuit TV from the county jail.

His attorney, interim Public Defender Tom McCulloch, filed a motion seeking the dismissal of the five first-degree murder counts of the indictment because they do not specify what acts caused Keller’s death, which prevents Curl from adequately preparing a defense, according to the motion.

In addition to the murder charges, Curl faces charges of concealing a homicidal death, arson and criminal sexual assault in connection with Keller’s death in October 2010. Curl was indicted in January 2011, and his trial is set to begin Dec. 3.

Keller was last seen Oct. 14, 2010, when she told friends she was going for a walk in Prairie Park. Her burned body was found in the park two days later.

McCulloch said Curl is entitled to know exactly what he’s accused of doing, and defense attorneys have not been given specifics.

“It’s more of a pleading technicality,” he said, adding the law says a defendant can’t be tried on a void indictment, and that’s what defense attorneys are dealing with.

Prosecutor Phil Montgomery with the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office had no comment on the motion.

Curl’s defense also asks Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert for a hearing on whether testimony from a witness the state plans to call – Daniel McDevitt, an expert in criminology and major case management – should be allowed.

Montgomery wouldn’t comment on calling McDevitt as a possible witness. McCulloch said he’s opposed to testimony from McDevitt, an ex-police officer, as he wasn’t involved in the investigation of the case.

Prosecutors have asked Stuckert to bar testimony from clinical psychologist Jayne Braden, who conducted a psychological evaluation of Curl. Her report says Curl has a tendency to “distort or fabricate information,” according to court documents.

The state plans to bring up at trial a statement Curl made to police that ties him to Keller’s death, according to the motion. Braden’s observation might cause a jury to think she believes Curl’s statements to police are false, when she has not offered an opinion as to whether what he told police is true or not.

McCulloch had no comment on that motion.

Montgomery has said Stuckert’s decision on the motion regarding Braden could determine whether the case goes to trial when scheduled.

“Some of that depends on the judge’s ruling, but we will be ready to go to trial on Dec. 3,” Montgomery said when asked Tuesday about the likelihood of the December date.

McCulloch said it’s still too early to say, since some of the motions could affect the trial date. A hearing on the motions was set for Nov. 13.

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