Justin DeRyke Pleads Guilty to Killing his Niece

Effingham - The uncle of a girl who was killed in the Fall of 2013 in Effingham County says he is responsible for the death of Willow Long.

Justin DeRyke,22, pleaded guilty to First Degree Murder, as part of a plea deal.  In exchange for his guilty plea, he had two other charges dropped. 

"Justin DeRyke's plea of guilty to the offense of First Degree Murder means that society will be protected and the murderer will spend the rest of his life behind bars," said Bryan M. Kibler, State's Attorney of Efflngham County. "The sentence in this case is the maximum allowed by law." "Justin DeRyke will never again pose a threat to any child," Kibler said.

DeRyke was watching Willow back in September of 2013. Investigators said, he killed her and hid her body.

The community and officials spent countless hours searching for Willow when she was reported missing on Sunday, September 8, 2013.  Around 7:30 p.m. on Monday, September 9, 2013 four volunteers found a small child in an area south of the Village of Watson in Effingham County. An autopsy confirmed the identify of the body to be Willow Long.  

An amber alert for Willow was not issued.

Ciara DeRyke, 26, Willow's mother, was taken into custody for obstructing an officer. Ciara told officers back in September, that she saw her daughter the morning of September 8th, even though Willow had reportedly died the night before.        

In January, Ciara DeRyke was sentenced to 120 days in jail and 18 months of probation. She plead guilty to obstructing an officer.  

Police said, Justin DeRyke admitted to stabbing the girl after she angered him. Because she was younger than 12 years old, state law requires Justin DeRyke to serve life in prison without possibility of parole.