Willow Long: Justin DeRyke Pleads Not Guilty to Murder of 7-Year-Old Niece

Sep 20, 2013 at 9:20 am
click to enlarge Justin DeRyke
Justin DeRyke

Justin DeRyke, who was arrested earlier this month for the murder of his 7-year-old niece Willow Long, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder during his arraignment Thursday in Effingham, KMOV reports.

Long went missing on September 7 and was found two days later wrapped in plastic under a bridge, her throat slashed and her hands covered in defensive wounds. DeRyke acted strangely from the moment his cousin was reported missing and was arrested shortly after the discovery of her body.

He ultimately gave police a bizarre and disturbing confession, in which he admitted to stabbing the little girl while claiming it began as an accident.

See Also: Willow Long: Justin DeRyke, Uncle of Stabbed Girl, 7, Says He "Had to End Her Suffering"

Willow Long
Willow Long

In his alleged confession, DeRyke, 22, told police that he chased Willow outside their house after she had scratched him, drawing blood. During the chase the girl tripped and fell, causing a stick to impale her neck. He said that "he had to end her suffering," according to a probable cause report. DeRyke then allegedly got a knife, slashed her throat and stabbed her in the heart about five times.

On Wednesday a grand jury indicted DeRyke on three first-degree murder charges and faces life in prison if convicted. DeRyke has a public defender and pleaded not guilty.

See also: Willow Long: Brother of Killed 7-Year-Old Taken into Protective Custody, Mother Investigated

Daily RFT has reached out to Effingham County State's Attorney's Office and we'll update if we hear back. DeRyke's pretrial is set for October 22.

Follow Daniel Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at [email protected].