EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ill. (KSDK) - During a hearing Thursday in Effingham County Justin DeRyke pleaded not guilty to three counts of first degree murder for allegedly killing his niece, 7-year-old Willow Long, who was found murdered after a two-day search. DeRyke and his public defender have requested a trial by jury.
Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler filed a notice of intent Thursday to seek a life sentence for DeRyke if he is convicted.
On Wednesday an Effingham County grand jury indicted DeRyke on the murder counts. Prosecutors say DeRyke stabbed Willow Long of Watson. The grand jury decided that probable cause exists for the committed crime.
MORE: Willow Long's body identified, uncle arrested
Willow's mother reported her missing Sunday morning, and hundreds of volunteers scoured the area in search for her. A volunteer discovered her body Monday evening.
Police arrested DeRyke Sept. 10.
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Brother of Willow Long taken into DCFS custody
Friends of the family have set up a Willow Long memorial fund, where donations will go toward the resources and man power used to help in the search of Willow.
If you're interested in contributing, donations can be sent to:
Willow Long Memorial Fund, Crossroads Bank, 806 N. Keller Dr., Effingham, IL 62401 -or- Willow Long Memorial Fund, Crossroads Bank, 2000 S. Banker St., Effingham, IL 62401