Toni Keller vanished on October 14 after telling friends she was headed into a wooded area known as Prairie Park to work on an art project. After about six hours, and when she did not return for dinner, her friends reported her missing. Local police launched an immediate search. Initially it was a missing persons investigation. When remains were found in Prairie Park it became a death investigation. When the police confirmed Keller’s belongings were found near the severely burned human remains it became a murder investigation.
Police announced suspect
Earlier in the week local police stated they had a suspect in mind. Before long reports circulated that the suspect was located in Louisiana. It was there, apparently, that Billy Curl had fled in his mother’s car. He reportedly fled initially to Mexico and then returned to the United States and to Louisiana to find day labor work. His mother reported the car stolen.
Curl was on the radar of the local police as he reportedly was a familiar sight around Prairie Park. Police stated that they had interviewed him once and had scheduled to interview him again. However, he had not showed up for the second interview, which is when police began searching for him.
Curl has specifically been charged with murder and criminal sexual assault. He also is facing arson charges due to setting the first that burned Keller’s body. Many of the counts he is facing could lead to the death penalty.
A combined force of local DeKalb police, Illinois State Police and the FBI have been investigating the case of the missing student. They have been unable to determine, so far, if the remains are that of Keller. The remains were so horribly burned that they were unrecognizable. The investigators were able to determine that the remains were human, but not the sex or identity. DNA samples of the remains have been taken and are being analyzed for comparison with Keller.
Today the staff at NIU announced that they are planning a special exhibit, on campus, of Keller’s art work.