After more than two years of waiting, the family of murdered Northern Illinois University freshman Antinette "Toni" Keller could finally see the wheels of justice begin to turn, with a new trial date for accused killer William Curl.
But in a bitter twist, the new start date — Jan. 14, 2013 — has another meaning for Roger and Diane Keller. That's the day their daughter would have celebrated her 21st birthday.
Medical tests revealed that Curl, 36, has hearing problems that could affect his ability to understand what's happening at his murder trial, according to his attorneys.
The trial has been pushed back yet again — it's already been delayed twice — so that Curl can be fitted for hearing aids, according to Keller family friend Thelma Holderness.
READ: Hearing Postponed in Toni Keller Murder Trial Due to Accused Killer's Earache
"This is beyond cruel. This is beyond insensitive," she said. "Roger stood and he said to the court, 'Just so you know, that is Toni's birthday.'"
Holderness said Roger Keller was admonished by a bailiff not to speak out of turn during court proceedings. The court-appointed advocate was also instructed to speak to him about keeping his composure in the courtroom, she said.
"This is about treating the family with dignity and respect," an angry Holderness said Friday. Though Judge Robbin Stuckert suggested Jan. 7 and Jan. 14 as potential trial dates, the court ultimately settled on the latter, she said.
Curl is accused of sexually assaulting and murdering Keller, 18, a Plainfield resident and NIU art major. Keller vanished Oct. 14, 2010, after telling friends she was going to a DeKalb park to take photos for an art assignment.
Her remains, which were burned beyond recognition, were found in the park two days later.
Curl is charged with five counts of first-degree murder, criminal sexual assault, one count of arson and one count of concealing a homicidal death.
Last month, Curl’s lawyers filed a motion seeking to dismiss all five murder charges because they don’t specify how Curl allegedly killed Toni. The attorneys say that prevents them from preparing a defense.
Stuckert is scheduled to rule on the motion during a Dec. 6 hearing, Holderness said.
The newest delay is the third time the trial date has been pushed back. It was initially slated to begin in May before being delayed until June. That same month, the judge agreed to again postpone the trial until December to allow for psychological evaluations of Curl to be completed.
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