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Hundreds, including father, gather to honor Willow Long at candlelight vigil

2:21 AM, Sep 12, 2013   |    comments
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By Elizabeth Matthews

EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ill. (KSDK) - Hundreds of people turned out Wednesday night to remember a 7 year old girl who police say was stabbed to death by her uncle.

Gruesome details were exposed about the murder just three days after she was reported missing. Police say 22-year-old Justin DeRyke has been charged with her murder. Autopsy results show Willow's throat was cut and she was stabbed in the upper chest.

For one night, the grim details of how Willow Long was killed were put on hold. Instead, mourners remembered her life, which was cut all too short.


"This is all for her, there is nothing else, but Willow, and I ask that every single one of you never ever forget my daughter," Willow's father told mourners.

He lives out of state, and addressed Wednesday night's crowd sounding grateful and overwhelmed. Hundreds of people showed up at the Watson Civic Center-- just two days ago it was the command center for volunteers in the massive search for Willow.

Wednesday night her life was honored, the same day her 22 year old uncle made his first court appearance and was formally charged with her murder.

The sea of candles filled the block. Residents say it's been a rough couple of days, but this is what it's all about.

"I live here because I think it's a safe place to live it's a good place to live and the people are really good and when things like this happen, I like that everyone gets together and helps each other," Melissa Heurman, a Watson, Ill. Resident, said.

"I love every last one of you, you all mean the world to me, and I know Willow is looking down on us so proud right now right now, she is so happy that we've all done this for her," Willow's father said.


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