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More Charges in Willow Long Death
UPDATED September 11, 4:45 p.m.
Just DeRyke, Willow Long's uncle, is now charged with three counts of first-degree murder. A probable cause statement shows he was babysitting his niece the night of the murder.
In DeRyke's first court appearance, dozens were shocked by the brutal details presented in the probable cause statement.
The statement is basically the facts as prosecutors know them from interviews and evidence. It alleges that late Saturday night, Willow tugged on her uncle's arm to ask him to watch TV with her--but scratched him in the process. That led to a fight, and Willow was killed shortly after.
Here's the story the probable cause statement paints. Be advised: some of the following details are graphic.
Saturday evening, Willow's mother, Cierra DeRyke, left her daughter and 3-year-old son in their uncle's care. She went to a bar and restaurant, and didn't return until after midnight.
After Willow approached her uncle that night, he yelled at her and she ran outside.
According to the uncle, Willow tripped in the yard and fell into a brush pile, causing a stick to go through her neck.
DeRyke told police he saw Willow twitching on the ground, and felt the need to "end her suffering."
DeRyke went back into the house to get a knife. He then slit her throat and stabbed her multiple times in the heart.
DeRyke wrapped up his niece's body and drove her south of their home, where he dumped her near a river. The body was found in plastic bags Monday night.
DeRyke's bail was set at $5 million, meaning it will take $500,000 to make bond.
The Effingham County State's Attorney said more charges could be added as the case goes on.
Police said when hundreds of people were searching for Willow, DeRyke went to work early and didn't help with the search.
The grand jury will decide on these charges next Wednesday, September 18. The following day, DeRyke is scheduled to make his next court appearance.
Willow's mother was not in court today. The Effingham County Sheriff has no explanation for statements he said the mother made to him that she saw her daughter early Sunday morning. She reported Willow missing just before 11 a.m.
UPDATED September 11, 1:56 p.m.
The man accused in the death of 7-year-old Willow Long made his first appearance in Effingham County court today.
Justin DeRyke is charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
According to a series of interviews collected by police, DeRyke was babysitting Willow Saturday night, while her mother was at a bar and grill.
A probable cause statement introduced in court indicates Willow approached her uncle at 11 p.m. to watch TV. She tugged on his arm and scratched him. He yelled, and she ran outside. She tripped and fell on a brush pile, and was impaled by a stick. DeRyke reportedly saw her twitching on the ground, and, he told police, wanted to "end her suffering." He then retrieved a knife from the house and stabbed Willow several times.
Authorities say stab wounds were the cause of Willow's death.
Stay with ABC Newschannel 20 for more details on this developing story.