Suspect in the murder of 7-year-old appears in court

By WEEK Producer

September 11, 2013 Updated Sep 11, 2013 at 7:58 PM CDT

EFFINGHAM, Ill. -- Justin DeRyke, the man accused of killing Willow Long in Effingham County, appeared in court on Wednesday.

He is charged with 3 counts of First Degree Murder. His bond has been set at $5 million.

The Effingham County State's Attorney said DeRyke, 22, admitted to police he had slashed the throat of his 7 year old niece and stabbed her repeatedly.

He was taking care of the girl Saturday night after her mother went to a tavern.

DeRyke said Willow grabbed his arm and scratched him. He said he chased the girl and she fell into a brush pile and was stabbed in the neck by a stick.

DeRyke said he stabbed Willow to "put her out of her misery'.

Police said DeRyke then wrapped the child's body in plastic and put her in a nearby river.

It was also revealed that Willow's mother, Ciara DeRyke, lied to police when she said Willow went missing Sunday morning after watching cartoons with her little brother.

Police said the child was already dead by then. They would not comment about possible charges against the Ciara DeRyke.