Accused murderer pleads "not guilty"

By Anna Carrera

Published 09/19 2013 04:08PM

Updated 09/19 2013 06:24PM

EFFINGHAM COUNTY -- It will likely be months before a Watson man goes on trial for murder. Thursday in court, Justin DeRyke pleaded not guilty to stabbing his 7-year old niece, Willow Long.

DeRyke is being represented by a public defender who wants a jury to hear this case. But, a mountain of evidence must be examined first.

The State's Attorney says it's been a very extensive investigation. More than a dozen people have been working to piece together and analyze everything.

DeRyke has the right to a speedy trial, which gives investigators 120 days to get ready. But, the State's Attorney says he doubts they'll be done by then. His best guess is the trial should start sometime next year, but it's hard to say when.

At this point, DeRyke faces three murder charges. The State's Attorney wouldn't comment whether he would face more charges or if anyone else could be charged with a crime. He did say authorities believe DeRyke was the only person involved in Willow's murder.

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