VIDEO: DeRyke Charged w/3 Counts of Murder

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Published on September 11 2013 8:43 pm
Last Updated on September 12 2013 1:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

Justin DeRyke Wednesday was formally charged with three counts of first degree murder in the death of his niece, Willow Long.

In court Wednesday afternoon, Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler shared the probable cause statement based on authorities' conversations with DeRyke that led to his arrest.  We want to emphasize that this statement is what DeRyke told authorities happened.

DeRyke told authorities he was at home on Saturday night, the 8th, at the house he shared with his parents Dale and Deborah DeRyke, with Willow and her younger brother Nathaniel Graves, and with Ciara DeRyke who is the mother of Willow and Nathaniel.

Authorities established that Dale and Deborah were gone on an over-the-road truck driving run and that Ciara was in Effingham at a local restaurant and bar until after midnight Sunday morning.  Justin DeRyke was at home with Willow and Nathaniel.

The 22-year-old DeRyke told authorities that when he came out of the restroom, Willow came up behind him and asked him to watch TV with her.  He said Willow pulled on his right forearm and scratched him, causing him to bleed.  He told authorities he yelled at Willow.  DeRyke said Willow ran out of the house they shared at 104 Circle Drive in Watson.  DeRyke said he went after Willow.  He said Willow was near a pile of sticks where the family dumps the cat litter.  DeRyke said Willow fell into the pile of sticks and said one of the sticks punctured her neck.  He said Willow began to twitch while lying on the ground.  He told authorities he believed "he had to end her suffering".  DeRyke said he went into the house and grabbed a knife from his bedroom.  He said he went back to the brush pile where Willow was laying.  He told authorities he took the knife and slit Willow's throat and then attempted to stab Willow in the heart approximately five times.

DeRyke then told authorities he wrapped Willow's body into several plastic bags and secured the bags with duct tape.  He said he placed the bags containing Willow's body into a vehicle and disposed of them in a body of water in a rural location south of Watson that same evening.

Again, what we have shared is what DeRyke told authorities happened.

Kibler went on to state that the bags containing Willow's body were found by a group of four searchers who stopped on their way back to their home in Marion County to search the area along the Little Wabash River near the Watson-Mason I-57 interchange about 7:30 Monday evening.  The searchers tried to move the bags but had difficulty due to their weight.  That led them to contact authorities who determined through a hole in the bags that a person was inside.  The bags were placed inside a larger body bag to await autopsy, which took place on Tuesday.

The findings of the autopsy are that the body was that of Willow Long.  The autopsy also found that Willow's throat had been slashed, that there was a laceration on her collarbone, and that there was another stab wound near the collarbone that proved fatal.  There were cuts on her hands that were consistent with being defensive wounds.

The preliminary autopsy determination is that the death was a homicide most likely as the result of a wound or wounds inflicted by a knife or knives.

Judge Sherri Tungate found probable cause to hold DeRyke over for trial on the murder charges.  The judge set DeRyke's bond at $5 million and if the bonds out, prohibited him from going to the family home and prohibited him from any contact with Ciara DeRyke and Nathaniel Graves.

DeRyke indicated he would hire an attorney.  Judge Tungate set DeRyke's first appearance with his attorney for next Thursday, September 19 at 1pm.  However, a grand jury is to meet next Wednesday, the 18th, and Kibler said the jury panel would consider DeRyke's case.

A press conference was held following DeRyke's court appearance to discuss the case.  One matter that arose was the apparent conflict over DeRyke telling authorities that the incident happened on Saturday night and statements we had received earlier at the time Willow first went missing that her mother had seen Willow alive in the home on Sunday morning.  Authorities said their first concern was Willow's death investigation and that the overall investigation of the incident is continuing.

In a note of irony, we had told you earlier this week that many people who had showed up to help with the search for Willow were sent home Monday evening as darkness approached.  Kibler said the four searchers who found Willow's body were among those who were sent home.  He said they stopped at the interstate interchange so they could feel like they helped.  And they did.