DEKALB, Ill. (CBS/WBBM) – A person of interest is being held out of state in connection with the murder of Northern Illinois University student Antinette “Toni” Keller.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports the man has not been charged, and thus, his name has not been released. But it has been revealed that he called police to notify them of a fire in the very same DeKalb park where Keller’s severely burned remains are believed to have been found.
Keller, 18, of Plainfield, disappeared on Oct. 14 after telling friends she was going for a walk in a wooded area south of the NIU campus.
What police believe to be her remains were discovered two days later. The charred remains, which have yet to be positively identified, were found near items believed to belong to Keller.
The discovery of the remains was not announced until Saturday.
Despite the lack of charges so far, Keller’s relatives were relieved to learn of the arrest.
They’re also anxious about the prospect of one day facing down the man who right now has only been called a person of interest.
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“On this one, my heart stopped a little bit,” said Keller family spokeswoman Mary Tarling. “It’s odd; there’s no prep for something like this, and just to know that there’s a human being that at some point we’re going to look at that could do this, it’s hard. It’s hard.”
“I’m just very sad. It’s a terrible tragedy,” said Ellen Avery, the Kellers’ Plainfield neighbor. “We’re totally devastated. Nothing can bring her back.”
He is awaiting extradition to DeKalb County, where police intend to question him in connection with what police believe was the murder of Toni Keller. The extradition is “pending,” DeKalb Police Chief Bill Feithen said.
On Tuesday, despite the uncertainty of the body’s identity, Feithen said the probe into Keller’s disappearance had become a “homicide investigation” largely because of the items found near the remains.
That night, hundreds of students — many holding candles — gathered in a darkened room at the Holmes Student Center to remember Keller and show their concern for the art student, her family and friends.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli and Pamela Jones, and the Sun-Times Media Wire, contributed to this report.