EFFINGHAM COUNTY -- The man who confessed to killing his 7-year old niece is now registered as a sex offender. Justin DeRyke is serving a life sentence in the Stateville Prison for murdering Willow Long.
He has no chance of parole, but, according to the Effingham County State's Attorney, putting him on the sex offender registry follows state statute since he pleaded guilty to first degree murder of a child. Authorities say there was no finding in court involving sexual behavior.
EFFINGHAM COUNTY -- 22-year old Justin DeRyke pleaded guilty to killing his niece. He was charged with first degree murder in the death of 7-year old Willow Long.
The judge accepted DeRyke's guilty plea. He received a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Willow Long went missing in September. The entire town and hundreds of volunteers searched for the little girl. Her body was found near Watson with a stab wound to the clavicle. Relatives said Willow tripped and fell into a pile of sticks in the yard and it lodged in her head.
DeRyke claimed he put her out of her misery. The judge ended Tuesday's hearing by saying she's not sure why DeRyke did what he did, but by pleading guilty and avoiding a trial, it relieved the state, county and Willow's family of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Ciara DeRyke, Willow's mother, pleaded guilty to lying to police last year. She's currently on probation as part of her plea deal.
EFFINGHAM -- Tuesday, Justin DeRyke, pleaded guilty to stabbing his niece, 7-year old Willow Long, to death, in Watson, in September 2013. DeRyke's guilty plea to first degree murder comes with a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for the 22-year old defendant.
DeRyke has been in custody since confessing to the murder. That confession was made hours after volunteers found Willow's body in a pond south of Watson.
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