The discovery of human remains, and personal belongings similar to those of missing student Antinette "Toni" Keller, have prompted authorities to reclassify her case as a death investigation.
The body was found in Prairie Park (map), where the Northern Illinois University student was believed to have been heading before she was reported missing. The Keller family has been notified that the investigation is a death, DeKalb Chief of Police Bill Feithen said.
"We felt strongly enough about the developments and as well as the items that were located through the course of this investigation to bring us to this point," Feithen said.
Police are not releasing any details on the items recovered.
Keller was last seen around noon last Thursday after she told friends she was going for a walk near West Lincoln Highway, which is not far from NIU's campus.
The remains have not been identified. They have apparently been in the park for some time, perhaps since shortly after Keller’s disappearance, police said. The cause of death remains under investigation, Feithen said.
“We’re not prepared to give an estimate of right now of when we feel the remains can be identified,” Feithen said.
The body was found in a densely wooded area. A portion of Prairie Park remains cordoned off as officers continue the investigation. Feithen said the area will likely be sealed off for the next day or two.
“It really depends on the evidence technicians,” he said. “It could be sooner.”
Northern Illinois University president John Peters issued this statement Sunday evening:
- "I know that all of the NIU community is distressed from this news. The outpouring of support in the search for Toni has been inspirational. Our community rallied together at the first indication she was missing, and I want to thank our students and the countless community volunteers who have been working tirelessly over the last week to get the word out about Toni’s disappearance. Please keep the Keller family in your prayers during this very difficult time."
NIU is making counselors available to students, and a hotline has been set up at 815-753-4648 for students and parents who have questions or concerns.
Investigators are actively pursuing leads in the case and are seeking information about any suspicious activity or persons in Prairie Park on or about the time of Keller’s disappearance.
Anyone with information is asked to call police at 815-748-8407 or 815-753-8477 or Crime Stoppers at 815-895-3272.