Far from the ordinary


If you’ve been anywhere near the local news in Illinois then you know NIU and DeKalb are back in it—for all the wrong reasons again.

Freshman art student Antinette “Toni” Keller went missing almost two weeks ago on Oct. 14 and her missing person case has since been classified as a homicide investigation. I won’t go into the gruesome details of the remains found in Prairie Park, where Keller was supposedly heading the day she disappeared.

At a press conference Tuesday, Oct. 26 the police announced the change to a homicide investigation despite no ID on the remains. It probably brought the worst fear of the NIU campus to life.

I was an undergraduate when the Feb. 14, 2008 shootings occurred at NIU so I’m no stranger to covering heavy hitting stuff like this. First go around as a photojournalist though and let me just say, stuff like this is what makes this job hard to do sometimes.

Nobody wants to photograph sadness or grieving. Much less in the case of a young life that was taken away. I think it’s doubly hard as a photographer sometimes because you have to capture those emotions (respectfully, of course).

I don’t think it matters how much the evidence of the worst-case is stacked up, you still hope that you’ll get to photograph police finding this person and a joyous reuniting with their family and friends.

That wasn’t the case at NIU.

Instead, you have the above three images: the path through Prairie Park behind the DeKalb Elks Lodge, blocked by police tape.

Then there is Greg Zanis, who operates Crosses for Losses in Aurora. Zanis built the memorial crosses for the Feb. 14 victims and did another for Keller. He’s an NIU graduate himself and donates the crosses and all the materials he used to make them.

And on top of all this, everything happened on my first week as photo editor at the Northern Star. What a way to start.

Anyways, police have made an arrest and court appearances have begun. Prairie Park is reopened and DeKalb is seemingly at ease, hopefully for a long time to come, too.

© 2010 Jerry Burnes/Northern Star


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