Friday, Dec 6, 2013
Watson Man Pleads Not Guilty to Killing Niece
EFFINGHAM COUNTY-- The Effingham County man charged with murdering his niece has pleaded not guilty. Twenty-two year old Justin DeRyke was formally arraigned and entered that plea Thursday.
A grand jury indicted DeRyke on three counts of first degree murder Wednesday. On September 19, he appeared with a public defender and pled not guilty to all three of those charges.
The courtroom was packed with everyone from DeRyke's parents to people in the community who say they were there to support Willow Long. DeRyke is accused of stabbing the seven-year-old to death earlier this month, while he was babysitting for her.
Effingham County State's Attorney Brian Kibler said Thursday's arraignment was just the beginning of the case against 22-year-old Justin DeRyke.
"[It was a] procedural first step in what will probably be a very long process," Kibler explained.
The community remains torn apart by the girl's murder.
"I have a hard time sleeping at night, thinking about what kind of people my daughter's involved with whenever I don't have her," said Ricky Shopp.
Because the victim in this case was so young, prosecutors are seeking natural life in prison for DeRyke. He remains in jail on $5 million bond, and will be back in court on October 22.
Willow's younger brother is still in protective custody. DCFS is investigating DeRyke for child abuse and the children's mother for child neglect.
Wind: 8 MPH
Humidity: 93 %