Willow Long: Missing Illinois Girl, 7, Found Dead, Uncle Charged With Murder (UPDATE)

Categories: Crime, News

willow-long.jpg
Willow Long.
Update: Officials have just confirmed that the body of Willow Long, the missing seven-year-old Watson, Illinois girl, has been identified. Our original coverage of the search from earlier today is below.

Police have arrested Justin DeRyke, Long's 22-year-old uncle, and are going to charge him with first-degree murder in the death of the young girl. He may face more charges as well.

The cause of death remains unknown at this time and an autopsy is ongoing this afternoon, the Effingham County State's Attorney says in a press release.

Police say that DeRyke, who also lives in Watson, was taken into custody just before 6 a.m. today. He is the maternal uncle of the deceased child.

All indications are that the death was a homicide, police note.

The defendant is appearing in court [corrected] tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the Effingham County Government Center.

Long's mother had reported to police that she went to take a nap and left her daughter with her three-year-old brother on Sunday. The two were watching television.

When she returned, the girl was gone.

Here is DeRyke's mugshot:

justin-deryke-1.jpg
Justin DeRyke.

Here's video from KMOV (Channel 4)'s latest coverage, followed by the full Effingham County State's Attorney press release and our original report from this morning.

Press release:

On Tuesday, September 10, 2013, at approximately 5:55 a.m., agents of Illinois State Police Zone 7 investigations placed Justin D. DeRyke, 22, of Watson, Illinois, under arrest for the murder of Willow Long, 7, of Watson. Mr. DeRyke is the maternal uncle of the deceased child.

An autopsy being conducted at this hour by Dr. John A. Heidingsfelder, forensic pathologist, has confirmed the identity of the body of a child found Monday evening by volunteer searchers south of Watson to be that of Willow Long. All indications are that the death is a homicide. The autopsy is ongoing and is being facilitated at St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital in Effingham.

The Effingham County Sheriff's Department and the Illinois State Police continue to investigate the matter.

The Effingham County State's Attorney's office will file First Degree Murder charges against the defendant on Wednesday afternoon in Effingham County Circuit Court, pending the possibility of additional charges to be filed later.

Original post, 9:53 a.m.: The search for Willow Long, a missing seven-year-old girl, has taken a dark turn: Officials say that they have located the body of a child in Effingham County, Illinois, where authorities and volunteers have been searching for the vanished girl since Sunday.

At this time authorities have not identified the body. An autopsy will be conducted today.

This news comes a day after police reported the bizarre circumstances of Long's disappearance: According to cops, the girl had been on the couch watching television with her three-year-old brother when their mother went to take a nap. When she awoke and returned to the room, police say, the three-year-old was still there -- but his sister was gone.

See also: Macala Shelton: Missing Missouri Girl Stabbed To Death, Found In Abandoned Farm, Cops Say

The mother then apparently asked the boy where Willow had gone, at which point he pointed to the door, but he remained silent.

Police say she immediately alerted the authorities, who have said that there was no indication of foul play.

willow-long-missing.jpg
via Facebook / Missing Willow Long

Volunteers last night located the body of a "small child" south of the small town of Watson, Illinois, police say.

Here's the full statement sent out this morning from the office of Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler:

On Monday, September 9, 2013, at approximately 7:30 p.m., four volunteer searchers located the body of a small child in an area south of the village of Watson in Effingham County.

No positive identification of the body has been made at this time. An autopsy to determine the child's identity and cause of death is scheduled for later this morning.

A joint investigation of the Illinois State Police and the Effingham County Sheriff's Department continues into the weekend disappearance of Willow Long, 7, of Watson.

We'll update when there's more information.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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78 comments
longhaired39
longhaired39

well let's see. He admitted slitting her throat, stabbing her in the neck and heart. He admitted to this. I'm not about to feel for this guy , not even a little bit. Some of these comments are outrageous :O

Sarah Carney
Sarah Carney

It's absolutely insane to take your frustration from all the guilty verdicts that have ever happened out on 1 guy who hasn't been to trial yet. Yeah, he probably is guilty but 'to assume is to make an ASS out of U & ME'. That's why we have a court system.

Sarah Carney
Sarah Carney

Uh HAhahaha! My 'liberal sympathy' eh? It's called being human. I don't apologize for not wanting to torture & kill someone and someone who hasn't even been proven guilty at that. I guess they call you Judge Brown, eh? yeah. Didn't think so. You're just one in the peanut gallery like myself.

jlmomma11
jlmomma11

What I believed happen. Now this is a opinion of mine. The uncle did something wrong to the little , abused her in some form and he freaked out worried she was gonna tell on him, so he killed her. Also what I'm understanding, the mom had both of her kids Sunday morning and put a movie in for them to watch, ok. But they are saying he killed willow Saturday night?!? None of it makes since. I believe the uncle and the child's mom is a fault and there is more to the story than what has been said.

Christopher Slater
Christopher Slater

It is Illinois - the best we can hope for is life in prison, no parole. Hey Illinois, wonder why you are broke?

Jack Pietrzak
Jack Pietrzak

Lord have mercy. How horrific for that child.

Andee Rose Shymama Gagliano
Andee Rose Shymama Gagliano

i do think it was totally wrong of him to try and hide it, if that is the true story, but i see too many comments from ppl who didn't even bother to read the article; their comments are sooo irrelevant.

Sara Ivie-Trankler
Sara Ivie-Trankler

Whoever is responsible needs to die. I have kids, and yes, with bad headaches I lay down. Leave the mother alone assholes.

Leslee Brown
Leslee Brown

Sarah already every family member is giving conflicting reports of what happened. A child id dead and the coroner has already made a determination it was murder not an accident. Would you cover up for a family member killing your child or any child for that matter??? Save your liberal sympathy for someone who is truly innocent. This entire family has lied over and over. Watch the Grandpa on each of the news stories, his story has changed each and every time. If there is smoke, there is fire

Andee Rose Shymama Gagliano
Andee Rose Shymama Gagliano

hey ppl, why not get more of the story before you hang the dude from a tree: the grandfather said the girl fell down a staircase or fell off of something, and the stick impaled her face, the dude panicked and hid her body. not saying that is right, j/s it could jus be a horrible accident. not sticking up for him, j/s.

Andee Rose Shymama Gagliano
Andee Rose Shymama Gagliano

right, the grandfather said the girl fell down a staircase or fell off of something, and the stick impaled her face, the dude panicked and hid her body. not saying that is right, j/s it could jus be a horrible accident.

Leslee Brown
Leslee Brown

I am sick of hearing this POS father making excuses for his degenerate 22 year old pevert son. The coroner has already made a determination that this was homicide not an ACCIDENT. Every last person in that family is guilty of something concerning that poor child's death

andrewjovanovic
andrewjovanovic

Where's the evidence? No mention of it in the article. How do they know it was him?

Steve Benson
Steve Benson

need to abuse him for awhile before he gets the bullet

Patty Lager
Patty Lager

I feel so very sorry for all involved in this case. please find it in your heart to love this man. if we cannot love him, humanity has lost hope .

Katie Markert
Katie Markert

yuck he looks like a freak...perfect pos for satan's army

Sarah Carney
Sarah Carney

what i'm trying to point out is that when so many are wrongfully convicted imagine how many more are accused that aren't guilty.

Sue DeVries
Sue DeVries

a 7 year old girl was left in charge of a 3-year-old???

Kenneth Snyder
Kenneth Snyder

The mom took a nap, so what? Are you trying to tell me that's the reason a 22 year old killed a little girl?

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

it's just like when idiot parents leave their kids in the car at the gas station with the engine running and then the car gets stolen with the kid in it.

Bud Hale
Bud Hale

Mr Brian that sounds good and i have never been to prison. But i know some people who have and unless you a lifer in the pen you cant touch him because they tack on time and you get in a ton of ship. Haven said that i think a public fireing squad is in order for this loser waste of space.

Brian Seim
Brian Seim

Wait til his new buddies INSIDE find out what he did...I am all out of forgiveness, this F&^% and all like him need to be exterminated. Just plain done with forgiveness.

Greg McKenzie
Greg McKenzie

Sick and tired of hearing about these insane perverts taking the lives of innocent children. Take him out to the woods, beat the crap out of him, throw him in a hole and bury him alive.

Jacqueline Hadley
Jacqueline Hadley

Steve you are absolutely right. I don't nap because I've got a kid and, if I did, my maternal instinct would not let me fall into a deep sleep that would make me not hear someone else in my house entering or leaving. When these kinds of things happen it can ALWAYS be traced back to the parents because parents, and no one else, are responsible for their children.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

umm...the actual story includes "Long's mother had reported to police that she went to take a nap and left her daughter with her three-year-old brother".

Susan Yorty Foerster
Susan Yorty Foerster

He deserves........NOTHING! No food, bed, clothing, roof over his head, air conditioning, toilet, shower, water, especially a tax payer funded defense lawyer!

Kat Ellis
Kat Ellis

Do you really feel better about the whole story, focusing on what the mother may or may have not done wrong, instead of the actual story? The victim?

Emily Foshage
Emily Foshage

Story still dont make sense. Could just be me though. Why would she up and leave her glasses then mom send a false report of what she was wearing?...

Mike Roark
Mike Roark

If he did what he's charged for. Kill him.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

"Long's mother had reported to police that she went to take a nap and left her daughter with her three-year-old brother" always a good idea.

Ray Thomas
Ray Thomas

i bet murdered is not the only thing he did to her

andrewjovanovic
andrewjovanovic

@Sue DeVries I agree. I think the mother should be looked at as well.

JusticePlease
JusticePlease

@Steve Mincer Really?  I disagree.  They were HOME!  We're supposed to be safe in our HOMES!

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