(KMOV.com) — Justin DeRyke pled guilty to the stabbing death of his niece seven-year-old Willow Long Tuesday.
In doing so, DeRyke is sentenced to natural life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is unclear in which facility DeRyke will serve his time.
DeRyke has been in custody since Monday, September 9, the night Long's body was found.
DeRyke's public defender and the Effingham County State’s Attorney’s Office reached the plea agreement Monday night. They both agreed that the highest sentence for the state of Illinois for first-degree murder should be applied in this case.
The judge ended today's hearing by saying she is not sure why DeRyke did what he did, but by pleading guilty and avoiding a trial, it relieved the state, county and Willow's family. Avoiding a trial saves the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.