EFFINGHAM, Ill. -- Family and friends on Monday said their formal goodbyes to a 7-year-old southern Illinois girl who authorities say was stabbed to death by her uncle.
Services for Willow Long of the tiny village of Watson in Effingham County were held at 11 a.m. at Effingham High School, followed by private burial.
Twenty-two-year-old Justin DeRyke was charged last Wednesday with first-degree murder in Willow’s death.
According to court documents, DeRyke told officers he was home alone watching Long and other children when the alleged incident occurred. Police said Long’s mother was at a local bar and her grandparents were working as truck drivers at the time.
DeRyke told police prior to the alleged killing he spent most of the evening in his room playing video games. When he left the room to go to the bathroom, he said Long tugged on his arm and asked him to watch a movie with her. During the exchange, DeRyke said the girl accidentally scratched his arm, causing it to bleed.
He reportedly got upset and yelled at Long, which caused her to run into the front yard. According to his statement DeRyke said she then fell on a brush pile, causing a stick to impale her in the neck.
DeRyke said he wanted to end her suffering.
Prosecutors said DeRyke then slit her throat before stabbing her in the heart and throat. Police said DeRyke put the girl’s body in a plastic bag, duct taped it and dumped it in the Little Wabash River. That’s where her body was found by four volunteers around 7:30 p.m. Monday. DeRyke was arrested about 6 a.m. Tuesday.
DeRyke is being held on $5 million bond and hiring an attorney. He’s set to appear again in court Thursday.