Yesterday, we reported on the disturbing murder charges against Justin DeRyke, the 22-year-old Watson, Illinois man who allegedly stabbed his seven-year-old niece to death. The victim, Willow Long, was reported missing on Sunday and found deceased a day later in Effingham county. An autopsy found that her throat had been slashed and that she had cuts on her hand "consistent with being defensive wounds."
DeRyke is behind bars -- and now his sister, the mother of Willow Long, is under investigation. The mother, identified in court documents as Ciara DeRyke, is facing an investigation by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), which is also investigating the now incarcerated uncle, agency spokesman Dave Clarkin tells Daily RFT.
He says the department had prior received no reports regarding this family.
Ciara DeRyke's son, age three, who was apparently at home during the incident, was taken into protective custody on Tuesday, Clarkin says.
When the story of Long's disappearance first broke on Sunday, Ciara DeRyke allegedly told police that her daughter went missing while she was taking a nap that morning. She reportedly told cops that the girl had been watching television with her brother and that when she asked the boy where she had gone, he pointed to the door, but said nothing.
The probable cause statement released by Effinngham County State's Attorney yesterday, however, tells a different story: Based on the suspect's alleged confession, police believe that he was left alone with the two young children Saturday night when Ciara DeRyke went out to a local bar in Effingham city. She returned sometime after midnight, police say.
Justin DeRyke allegedly told police that he got into some sort of fight with the girl and that she ran out of the house and tripped and fell, causing a stick to impale her neck.
Because he "had to end her suffering," he then reportedly retrieved a knife, slit her throat and stabbed her multiple times before dumping the body. The next day, police say, he did not help with the search and instead went to his job at a restaurant.
DCFS received a call on its hotline on Sunday, prompting the investigation into the two family members, Clarkin says.
He notes that 75 percent of child deaths involve families with no prior reports (according to a recent study).
Clarkin says the southern region of Illinois -- which includes Madison and St. Clair counties -- has a child homicide rate that is nearly twice the state average. The region, he says, also has overall child abuse and neglect rates that are around twice the state average
Too often, he adds, family, friends and neighbors have suspicions but never report them.
"Call the [child abuse] hotline 800-252-2873 to keep tragedies like this from happening again," he says.
Here are the full charges: