Illinois funeral home paying for Willow Long's services - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Prosecutors say uncle stabbed niece to death

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Willow Long Willow Long
Justin DeRyke, 22. Justin DeRyke, 22.

An Illinois funeral home has decided that it will pay for the funeral of a young girl who is suspected of have been stabbed to death. 

Bauer Funeral Home, in Effingham, IL, is conducting funeral services for 7-year-old Willow Long and tells 14 News that they will cover the expenses for them.

Willow was last seen Sunday at her home in the 730-resident village of Watson. Her body was found just south of the tiny community Monday night.

Willow's uncle, 22-year-old Justin DeRyke, is in jail on a $5million bond. Officials say he stabbed his niece in the chest with a knife.

Effingham County prosecutors have charged DeRyke with three counts of first-degree murder.

Court documents show Deryke told police that Willow grabbed his arm Saturday night and scratched him. When he started yelling at her, she ran outside and fell on a nearby brush pile. 

Deryke says a stick pierced her in the neck. He told officials he had to end her suffering so he slashed her throat and stabbed her in the chest. He later wrapped her body in plastic and put it in a nearby river.

Willow's grandfather says his son admits being with Willow when she died.

"He did wrong. He went and tried to hide the fact. He got away with it until the next morning. Then people started looking," Dale Deryke, Willow's grandfather, said.

Authorities say the girl's mother discovered her daughter was missing after taking a nap. When she got up, Willow's toddler brother pointed at the door.

More than 400 volunteers, using infrared detection equipment, dogs and all-terrain vehicles, searched for Willow on Monday.

Watson is about 100 miles northeast of St. Louis.

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