Candlelight vigil held to honor one year anniversary of Antinette “Toni” Keller murder


Michael Hottelmann (right), Jenni Hottelmann (center) and Rosetta Johnston (left) release water lanterns into the East Lagoon as part of a memorial for Toni Keller Tuesday night.

By Chelsey Boutan

Thirty lit lanterns resembling sunflowers floated across the East Lagoon as Beatles and Pink Floyd songs played softly in the background. Members of the campus community released lanterns in remembrance of former NIU art student Antinette “Toni” Keller Tuesday night.

Keller disappeared Oct. 14, 2010 after going to Prairie Park to work on a drawing, according to friends. Two days after her disappearance, badly burnt remains were found; remains which were later determined to be Keller’s.

Huskies United President Jackie Lopez organized the lantern ceremony because she thought it would be a great way for the NIU community to remember Keller. Lopez’s family donated the lanterns, which resembled sunflowers because those were Keller’s favorite flower.

“The world lost a friend,” Lopez said during a speech she gave prior to releasing the lanterns. “We hope this helps you with the healing process. We miss you and love you, Toni, and you will forever live in our hearts.”

Jasmine Robinson, junior corporate communications major, said she helped Keller move into her room at Neptune North last year. Shortly afterward, the two became good friends.

“She’s a person that you can’t forget, at least for us,” Robinson said. “Toni considered Neptune home. She considered NIU her family. We feel it’s important to remember your family. She’s a fallen Huskie.”

Robinson read a poem at the ceremony that she wrote with the help of students who lived at Neptune North that knew Keller.

“The poem is about saying your ‘I love you’s’ and your ‘I care about you’s,’ because you can never just assume that your family and friends know what you’re thinking. So if tomorrow never comes you won’t have any regrets,” Robinson said.

Robinson said one lesson she learned from Keller’s death is to never let friends go anywhere by themselves.

“That morning I talked to her and she said, ‘I’m going to Prairie Park to draw,'” Robinson said. “And I’m like, ‘What’s Prairie Park?’ And then she said, ‘That’s where I go to draw.’ And I said, ‘Okay, see you later.’ You never would think, ‘Oh, don’t let them go there by themselves.'”

Matt Schultz, junior visual communications major, said he became friends with Keller because they both lived in Neptune North. Schultz said it is important for the campus community to remember Keller because “you never want to forget any student who is taken from this world too early.”

“We definitely still miss her and still love her,” Schultz said. “Coming together like this helps us stay together. We need to remember her because the definitely deserves that.”