Human remains have been found in a DeKalb, Ill., park where investigators were searching for missing Northern Illinois University art student Antinette "Toni" Keller, and police said the case is now a death inquiry.
An autopsy was being performed today to determine whether the remains where those of Keller, an 18-year-old freshman who went missing on Oct. 14 after setting off alone into Prairie Park.
"Investigators are actively pursuing leads in the case and are seeking information about any suspicious activity or persons in Prairie Park on or about the time of Keller's disappearance," DeKalb Police Department Chief Bill Feithen told ABC News station WLS-TV in Chicago.
Keller's parents were told of the reclassification of the case Saturday evening after things that might belong to Keller were found in the area, police said.
The young woman was last seen around noon on Oct. 14 at her residence hall, when she told fellow students she was going to Prairie Park to get ideas for an art project.
"She just told the people she was going into the forest, which she did all the time to do her artwork because that's a nice way to relax and have your art feel going, and she always came back before dark," Jamie Feather, one of Keller's friends, told WLS-TV. "She was supposed to meet someone the next day and never showed up."
Police said they have ruled out a theory, previously reported on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children website, that Keller went to California, where a close friend of hers recently moved.
According to Keller's cousin and family spokeswoman, Mary Tarling, Keller had made arrangements to see family and friends last weekend, and the family realized she was missing when she did not turn up at home Oct. 15.
NIU police immediately began a search once a fellow resident at Neptune North residence hall reported her missing on the evening of Oct. 15, Feithen said.
The Prarie Woods sit just south of the school's campus in DeKalb. Large portions of the park were closed to the public today as investigators searched the area.
Northern Illinois University students held a rally today at 9 a.m. in support of their classmate.
According to Tarling, Keller's mother has been hospitalized due to stress; both parents were identified of the reclassification of the case after property that may belong to their daughter was found in the area.
Tarling told ABC News that a set of dorm keys belonging to Keller were found in the park, but it is still unclear whether they are a previous set made for her, or the set that she took with her on Oct. 14.
A posting from her family on the Facebook page set up to help find her, "Missing Antinette Keller" read: "Thank you for the outpouring of support. It is all this help from everyone here at NIU and the community that will bring Toni home. Please keep it going! Toni, we love you!"
Keller, originally from Plainfield, Ill., is a freshman at NIU and though she has only been on campus for a couple of months, word of her disappearance has her friends worried.
"This is the first time this has happened. It is frightening, and hopefully she is OK wherever she is at. We're hoping that nothing has happened to her," her friend Sydney LaPorte said.
Keller is described as 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes.
Anyone with any information on the whereabouts of Keller is asked to call a hotline set up by police, (815) 753-4648.