DeRyke Pleads Not Guilty to Willow's Murder

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Published on September 19 2013 5:26 pm
Last Updated on September 19 2013 5:35 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

Watson resident Justin DeRyke has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first degree murder in the death of his niece, Willow Long.

DeRyke entered the not guilty pleas during a brief court appearance before Judge Sherri Tungate in Effingham County Circuit Court.  The pleas follow the return of indictments by an Effingham County Grand Jury Wednesday charging DeRyke with causing seven-year-old Willow's death by stabbing her in the clavicle with a knife on or about September 8.

The charges allege that DeRyke intended to create Willow's death, stabbed her knowing it would cause her death, and stabbed her knowing that his action created a strong probability of Willow's death or great bodily harm.

DeRyke also requested a jury trial.  Judge Tungate scheduled DeRyke's trial for December 2 at 8:30am although it's highly unlikely the sides will be ready for trial by that time.  The trial date was set within the 120-day speedy trial guideline in Illinois courts.  A pre-trial hearing on any pending matters in the case was set for 11am on October 22.

State's Attorney Bryan Kibler also at the hearing filed a motion to seek natural life in prison for DeRyke if he is convicted on any of the three counts.

Assistant Public Defender Janet Fowler was in court with DeRyke as Public Defender Scott Schmidt is at a previously-scheduled seminar. 

The defense has filed a motion seeking any evidence gathered by prosecutors in the case.  Kibler said at this point there is very little that he can turn over as there are, in Kibler's words, "15 investigators on the case and they are all in training today."

The 22-year-old DeRyke remains in Effingham County Jail under $5 million bond.

The courtroom was crowded with several people wearing purple in Willow's memory.