Antinette "Toni" Keller Update: Charred Remains Found Near NIU Could Take Time to ID

Antinette "Toni" Keller Update: Charred Remains Found Near NIU Could Take Time to ID
Antinette "Toni" Keller (Personal Photo)

CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM/AP) A prominent forensic anthropologist told CBS affiliate WBBM that it could take some time for investigators to identify the severely burned body found in a park near the Northern Illinois University campus where missing student Antinette "Toni" Keller was last seen.

PICTURES: Antinette Keller Missing

Earlier Tuesday, DeKalb Police Chief Bill Feithen stopped short of saying the remains that were found in a densely wooded area are those of Keller, a freshman art major at NIU. It apparently took authorities a week for them to confirm that the remains were even human because the body was burned beyond recognition, according to CBS affiliate WBBM.

The 18-year-old was reported missing Oct. 14 after she reportedly told friends she was going to work on an art project in popular Prairie Park in DeKalb, west of Chicago.

"I assume that in this case some sort of accelerant was used to burn the body," said forensic anthropologist Dr. Clyde Snow. "Ordinary fires will not cause that much destruction."

Dr. Snow has not been called in on the Keller case, but has identified victims of John Wayne Gacy, Dr. Joesef Mengele and the Oklahoma City bombers, reports WBBM.

According to Dr. Snow it may not have been possible for authorities to use dental records to make a positive ID.

"With very intense fires, the whole skull, including the dentition, could be so badly damaged or destroyed. The teeth, for example, with intense heat will crack," he said.

DNA may be the only route to identifying whether the body found is in fact Keller's and Dr. Snow says that takes time because it has to be compared to family members' DNA.

Feithen said the human remains were found "early on in the investigation," and not Saturday when it was announced, which has led to fear on the 25,000-student campus, where a gunman fatally shot five students inside a lecture hall before killing himself in 2008.

"The community has reached a level of hysteria that only comes when questions are not being answered, and no one can be blamed for being unnerved," the Northern Star, the student newspaper, said in a Tuesday editorial.

Feithen defended the weeklong delay in announcing the discovery of the remains. "As soon as we found out they were human remains, we notified everyone," Feithen said.

DeKalb County State's Attorney John Farrell said authorities had to take care not to undermine the investigation, which is now being handled as a homicide case.

Security has been increased at the university, including making security escorts available to students and staff 24 hours a day.