Residents gather outside courthouse in support of Toni Keller


Thelma Holderness (center), of Summoning of Yellow speaks to peaceful protestors on Monday afternoon outside of the Sycamore Court House. Protestors gathered to speak out against the plea deal that William Kurl recieved in exchange for confessing to the murder of Toni Keller.

By Alan Kozeluh

The sun shone Monday on a gathering of people in yellow shirts singing Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”

They were singing for Toni Keller, a freshman killed in October 2010 in Prairie Park.

About 20 supporters of the Keller family wore Toni’s favorite color in her memory at the demonstration in front of the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore. The demonstration was held over the plea bargain reached in the case of William Curl.

Curl took an Alford plea in the murder of Keller. He will serve a 37-year sentence, but the plea allows him to maintain his innocence.

Thelma Holderness worked as a custodian in Neptune Hall, where Keller lived, but never knew the student personally. When Keller went missing, Holderness reached out to the family. Holderness, the spokesperson for the Keller family, said the plea was more than a disappointment.

“If you plead guilty to a murder you should serve more than 37 years,” Holderness said. “And you should not be allowed to say you’re innocent.”

Many of those gathered wanted to say how dissatisfied they were with County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack, who was elected in fall.

“Basically, he got in on Barack Obama’s coattails,” said Jon Zahm, a political consultant whose clients include the Illinois Campaigns for Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. “And now we have an underqualified chief law enforcement officer.”

Darla Cook, of DeKalb, was another supporter who attended. Cook was holding a sign that read “Schmack is a schmuck.”

“Last week I went out to get my morning paper and saw that they were gonna do a plea,” Cook said. “It just made me really angry.”

Schmack has faced criticism since before Curl even accepted the plea; however, he has said that he believes his office did the right thing.

“We firmly believe that this result will protect the citizens of DeKalb County, and the people of

Illinois as a whole, from further harm at the hands of William Curl, and if a sentence of 37 years,

primarily to be served at a maximum security prison, such as the State Penitentiary at Menard, Illinois, is not an adequate deterrence to others I do not know what would be,” Schmack said in a Wednesday news release. “At the end of the day, prosecutors are placed in office to do what they think is right, in striking a balance between a host of concerns. We can do no more than say that we believe that what we did was right, based on everything that we knew.”