NIU Student's Accused Killer Reaches Plea Deal

William "Billy" Curl has agreed to plead guilty to killing Antinette "Toni" Keller in exchange for 37 years in prison

By Lisa Balde and Rob Elgas
|  Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013  |  Updated 2:39 PM CDT
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Billy Curl was charged with murder two years ago in the 2011 death of NIU student Toni Keller. Rob Elgas reports.

Billy Curl was charged with murder two years ago in the 2011 death of NIU student Toni Keller. Rob Elgas reports.

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DeKalb Police Describe Discovery of Remains

DeKalb Chief of Police Bill Feithen and Brad Hoey, NIU media relations, talk about the discovery of a body following the disappearance of NIU student Antinette "Toni" Keller.
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UPDATE: Plea Deal Accepted

A plea deal is expected to be finalized Wednesday for the DeKalb man accused of brutally killing a Northern Illinois University student three years ago.

The DeKalb County State's Attorney says 36-year-old William "Billy" Curl has agreed to plead guilty to killing Antinette "Toni" Keller in exchange for 37 years in prison. Richard Schmack said it's the longest negotiated murder plea deal sentence in more than 30 years.

Keller's family has spent the last two years preparing for the trial that was slated to begin next week and is said to be livid over the development.

"He'll be released," said family spokeswoman Mary Keller Tarling, sharing the shock the slain student's parents feel from Tuesday's deal. "He'll be released. ... I promise you Roger and Diane Keller will never be released. ... They were looking for a life sentence."

Diane Keller took her emotions to Facebook, writing that Schmack should get out of office.

"You sicken me," she wrote.

Curl was charged with murder two years ago. An 18-year-old NIU freshman from Plainfield, Keller was last seen Oct. 14, 2010 when she left her residence hall to work on some art in a wooded area near campus.

Her badly burned remains were found two days later in the park, police said. Prosecutors believe Curl, who was a frequent visitor to the park, attacked Keller, calling it a "crime of opportunity." He is accused of raping and killing Keller before setting her body on fire.

Curl was charged in 2011 and ordered held on more than $5 million bond after he fled to Mexico and crossed the border back into the U.S., where he was arrested at a hotel.

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