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Man agrees to plea deal in murder of NIU freshman

Updated: April 2, 2013 7:01PM

A DeKalb man charged with murdering Northern Illinois University freshman Antinette “Toni” Keller has agreed to plead guilty in return for a 37-year prison sentence.

DeKalb County prosecutors late Tuesday announced the tentative plea deal with William Curl, who was scheduled to stand trial next week for Keller’s slaying.

The 36-year-old Curl is expected to formally plead guilty at a hearing Wednesday, DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack said in a statement.

Keller, 18, vanished on Oct. 14, 2010 after telling friends she was going to Prairie Park near the university campus.

A search two days later located charred human remains in the park, though it required DNA testing to confirm the remains were those of the missing Plainfield woman.

Curl had faced a 20- to 60-year prison term if he had been convicted of killing Keller.

A Keller family spokeswoman said relatives were surprised when notified Monday by prosecutors that a plea deal with Curl was in the works.

“I think we’re all kind of in shock after waiting for 2 ½ years,” said family spokeswoman Mary Tarling. “We hadn’t expected this.”

She declined to comment specifically on the 37-year sentence that Curl is expected to receive if he pleads guilty but said no sentence would erase the family’s loss.

“I don’t know if anything would fix what happened,” Tarling said.

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