EFFINGHAM — A grand jury in southern Illinois has indicted a man on charges that he stabbed his 7-year-old niece to death.
The indictment returned Wednesday by Effingham County grand jurors accuses 22-year-old Justin DeRyke of three counts of first-degree murder. The indictment replaces a criminal complaint bearing those charges against DeRyke earlier this month.
Authorities allege DeRyke killed Willow Long late Sept. 7 or early Sept. 8 near the family’s home in Watson, a village about 100 miles northeast of St. Louis.
Investigators say DeRyke insisted he killed his niece to “put her out of her misery” after he says she fell onto a brush pile and pierced her neck with a stick.
DeRyke is to appear in court again on Thursday. Online court records indicate Effingham County Public Defender Scott Schmidt has been appointed to represent DeRyke at DeRyke’s request.
The $5 million bail previously put in place by Judge Sherri Tungate remains in place, as do all conditions of release. Tungate is also scheduled to preside over Thursday’s court hearing at which time the court is expected to address a “message” the court has reportedly received from DeRyke.