DEKALB -- Facing a $5 million-plus bond, the man accused of sexually assaulting, burning and killing Northern Illinois University student Antinette J. "Toni" Keller formally heard the charges against him Saturday morning in DeKalb County Circuit Court.
Circuit Judge James Donnelly read Wiliam P. "Billy" Curl, 34, who lives in an apartment in the 500 block of East Taylor Street in DeKalb, the nine charges he faces in the case: five counts of first-degree murder, arson, criminal sexual assault, unlawful possession of a converted motor vehicle and obstructing justice.
Contact information ( * required )
Curl is accused of raping and murdering 18-year-old Keller, who graduated from Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville this year, in a crime of opportunity in an isolated area of a park near the NIU campus, where Keller had gone for a walk and went missing Oct. 14.
Two of the first-degree murder charges make Curl eligible for the death penalty because they allege Curl committed murder during the act of another felony, Donnelly said during the Saturday morning status hearing, held at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore while Curl was shown on closed-circuit TV from the nearby DeKalb County Jail.
According to charging documents, the fourth count of first-degree murder alleges Curl murdered Keller while committing criminal sexual assault on her. The fifth count alleges Curl committed the murder while also committing arson.
The other seven charges carry maximum sentences ranging from 25 years to natural life in prison, according to charging documents.
Curl's bond was set at $5,065,000 for all nine charges, requiring him to post 10 percent of that amount, or $506,500, to get out of jail. Curl said from the jail Saturday morning he was unable to post that amount.
Curl will be represented by a public defender in the case, Donnelly ruled.
Curl has some prior criminal history in DeKalb County, including charges for criminal damage to property, DeKalb County Assistant State's Attorney Phil Montgomery said.
"We certainly wouldn't have charged somebody with the serious charges that we have if we weren't confident that we could prove him guilty," Montgomery said.
It has been years since a defendant in DeKalb County was eligible for the death penalty, Montgomery added.
Donnelly set Curl's next court appearance for 8:45 a.m. Monday in DeKalb County Circuit Court. The appearance will be a status hearing, Montgomery said, and prosecutors will not divulge all the facts of the case at that time.
"It's going to take a while to compile all the police reports to get all the discovery to the defense," Montgomery said.
Curl was arrested U.S. marshals Tuesday night at a hotel in Covington, La, and then taken to the DeKalb County jail.
DeKalb Police Chief Bill Feithen on Friday described Keller's death as "a gruesome murder," "a crime of opportunity." He said the two did not know each other and that it was an isolated incident.
Keller, an 18-year-old freshman from Plainfield, was reported missing Oct. 14 after going for a walk at a park near the NIU campus. The art major told friends she was going to look for ideas for a project.
Human remains, which police believe to be those of Keller, were discovered two days later in a heavily wooded area of that park.
Police announced the discovery of the remains Oct. 25, a week after they were found, because they couldn't be identified. The remains were so badly burned, officials said, that they had to be sent to an out-of-state forensic expert to confirm they were human.
Authorities have said the remains were found near items that were "consistent with" Keller's personal belongings. Keller, who graduated this year from Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, last was seen carrying a portfolio and camera.
Feithen said authorities became interested in Curl because he often visited the park, and he failed to appear for scheduled interviews with police.
It was later learned that Curl took his mother's car Oct. 23 and fled to Mexico. Police were able to track him after he returned to the United States and went to Covington, apparently looking for work as a day laborer, officials said.
Curl was arrested in Louisiana but on local charges of unlawful possession of a vehicle and obstruction of justice.