​Willow Long Uncle Murdered Girl, Charged​​

September 11, 2021

Willow Long, a 7-year-old Illinois girl who was found dead, was killed by her uncle and charged with the murder in the case, according to prosecutors. The girl’s body was discovered Monday night in Watson.

Justin DeRyke, 22, was babysitting for the girl when she died. Dale DeRyke, the murder suspect’s father, told the station that his son was playing with the girl when she ran outside and fell onto a stick that went through her neck.

He reportedly said his son panicked and hid Long’s body in a river bed several miles from her home.

Volunteers discovered the body around 7:30 p.m. Monday, and DeRyke was reportedly arrested around 6 a.m. Tuesday. Additional charges could be filed later, prosecutors told CBS affiliate KMOX.

DeRyke’s first court appearance is set for 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, reports the station.

Long’s mother reportedly said she saw the girl watching television Sunday morning. She said her daughter disappeared while she was taking a nap later that day.

Officials say an autopsy confirmed the body was Long, but they haven’t released a cause of death.

DeRyke told police he spent most of the night in his bedroom playing video games, but when he left the bathroom around 11:00 p.m. Long tugged at his arm asking him if he would like to watch television with her. During the conversation, Long accidentally scratching his arm, angering him.

DeRyke told investigators he yelled at the girl and she ran out of the house and toward a brush pile in the family’s backyard. DeRyke said he then chased after her, but she tripped and fell into the brush pile causing a stick to impale her neck.

He then said she began to twitch and he believed he had to end her suffering, so he grabbed a knife out of his bedroom and slit her throat, then stabbed her in the heart approximately five times.