After nearly two full days of searching, volunteers found the body of 7 year old Willow Long a few miles south of her home in Watson, Illinois. Shortly after, the Effhingham County Sheriff’s Department and the Illinois State Police (ISP), confirmed that they had arrested Willow’s 22 year old uncle, Justin DeRyke. Authorities later confirmed that they had arrested DeRyke and were charging him with 1st degree murder.
After DeRyke’s 1 p.m. court hearing this afternoon it was announced that he was being charged with three counts of 1st degree murder for his involvement in the death of his niece.
In a probable cause statement released from the courthouse, DeRyke reportedly told police that he was babysitting the young girl while her mother was at a bar & grill. Around 11 p.m. DeRyke said, Willow ran outside where she tripped and fell on a pile of brush, which impaled her. He says that he saw her twitching, and in an effort to “end her suffering” went back into the house and grabbed a knife which he then used to stab her.
Authorities say the official cause of death of Willow Long was multiple stab wounds.
We will be bringing you more information on this story as it is made available.