Grand Jury Indicts DeRyke on Three Counts of First Degree Murder

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Published on September 18 2013 6:43 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

An Effingham County Grand Jury has indicted Justin DeRyke on three counts of first degree murder in the death of his niece, Willow Long.

The Grand Jury returned the indictment against DeRyke for allegedly stabbing seven-year-old Willow, causing her death during an incident outside the home they shared with her mother and his sister, Ciara DeRyke and Justin and Ciara's parents.  Justin DeRyke, Willow and her three-year-old brother were the only ones at home at the time of the incident according to information gathered by authorities.

DeRyke said the incident occurred the night of September 7.  The grand jury information indicates the death occurred "on or around the 8th day of September".

There are three counts of murder involved since they allege different theories concerning Willow's death, such as DeRyke took the actions knowing they would result in her death and knowing that the actions carried a strong probability of resulting in her death.

Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler said the counts included in the indictment also specify the difference in DeRyke's age and that of Willow, which would be important if DeRyke is convicted and the case continues to the sentencing phase. 

If DeRyke is convicted on any of the three counts of the indictment, Kibler said he would face a mandatory sentence of natural life in prison.

DeRyke is still scheduled to make his first court appearance with his attorney, Effingham County Public Defender Scott Schmidt, Thursday at 1pm.  DeRyke asked for appointment of the public defender Monday after earlier indicating he would hire his own attorney.

In the meantime, the Effingham County Sheriff's Department, Effingham County Coroner's Office and the Illinois State Police continue to investigate the disappearance and death of Willow Long and all surrounding circumstances.  The investigation is ongoing.