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The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Body Identified as Missing 7-Year-Old

Updated September 10, 6:31 p.m.
This evening, we talked to Willow's neighbors, as well as the father of the suspect, about today's events. Click here to see that story.
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Updated September 10, 6:29 p.m.

People mourning for young Willow Long are planning to remember her life at a vigil Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Watson Civic Center. Everyone is invited to attend.

Many people in the community are leaving porch lights on in memory of Willow, and encouraging residents to paint the town purple.
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Updated September 10, 1:16 p.m.

An autopsy confirms the body found Monday evening south of Watson is that of Willow Long. The death appears to be a homicide. The autopsy is ongoing.

The Effingham County State's Attorney has confirmed 22-year-old Justin DeRyke of Watson is arrested in connection with the murder of 7-year-old Willow Long. DeRyke is Willow's maternal uncle.

The state's attorney will file first-degree murder charges against DeRyke Wednesday afternoon in Effingham County Circuit Court. Additional charges may be filed later.
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Updated September 10, 12:51 p.m.
The Effingham County Sheriff's Office tells us the Willow Long investigation is now in the hands of Illinois State Police.
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Updated September 10, 10:45 a.m.
Effingham County Sheriff's Deputies confirm Illinois State Police arrested Justin Deryke, 22, just before 6:00 this morning. He is in the Effingham County Jail, charged with one count of first-degree murder.

Friends and neighbors of the family tell us that Deryke is Willow Long's uncle.
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Updated September 10, 10:45 a.m.
Police are now interviewing neighbors in Willow's neighborhood, and investigating around her home.

As for the timeline of the 7-year-old's disappearance: her mother reported her missing late Sunday morning. The mother said she woke up and saw Willow and her 3-year-old brother watching TV. She wasn't feeling good, so she went back to bed. When she woke up later that morning, Willow was gone. The little brother indicated she walked out the door. This sparked a 20-square-mile search and hundreds of volunteers.

There's a lot of speculation about the investigation, but officials are not releasing any more information right now. Neighbors said the community is working on a vigil for Willow. But again, police aren't saying if she's still a missing person.

We will continue to keep you updated on this developing story.
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Updated September 10, 6:12 a.m.
Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler tells us the body of a small child has been found in the village of Watson in Effingham County.

Four volunteers found the body around 7:30 p.m. Monday.

There's no positive identification of the body at this time. Therefore, the investigation into the missing 7-year-old continues.

An autopsy to determine the child's identity and cause of death is scheduled for later this morning.

We'll keep you updated on this developing story.
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Updated September 9, 9:53 p.m.
7-year-old Willow Long's mother isn't sure what the girl was wearing or where she was going when she reportedly walked away from their Circle Street home in Effingham County.

Now, more than a day later, there are no clues--although volunteers have turned out by the hundreds to search for Willow.

Tonight, volunteers have been sent home, leaving the search to the professionals. Their job may be done for the night, but rest is the last thing those volunteers will do.

The professionals plan to search until 6 a.m. If they haven't found Willow by then, they'll go back to the drawing board.

Willow has shoulder-length red hair. She's between 3'10" and 4' tall and weighs around 46 pounds. She is not wearing her glasses.

According to Effingham County police, Willow went missing between 9 and 10:15 Sunday morning, and was reported missing by her mother.

Click here to see interviews with search volunteers and with Willow's grandfather.
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Updated September 9, 4:59 p.m.

The search continues. Willow Long, 7, is still missing. Police believe the young girl from Watson walked out of her home late Sunday morning, and has not been seen or heard from since.

Watson is a small town 10 miles south of Effingham. Authorities there fear time is not on their side.

The search is centered around the word of Willow's 3-year-old brother. He said he saw his sister walk out of the house alone.

Since police got the call just before 11 a.m. Sunday, hundreds of volunteers, first responders and search dogs have assisted in the search. Community members have even searched for Willow from planes and on horseback.

Right now, there's no word on why she may have left. The search is concentrating on 20 square miles surrounding her home, though first responders are concentrating on the first three miles.

Willow's disappearance is still under investigation. So far, deputies have seen no signs of foul play.

A day and a half into the search, the Effingham County Sheriff said no one is willing to give up on the search for the 7-year-old he described as "energetic and imaginative."

"She's seven years old, so we want to make sure we cover everything," Effingham County Sheriff John Monnet said. "It's hard to put a timeline on there and say 'we just give up. That there's no more that we can do.' We don't feel that way. You go outside and these people don't feel that way. They know there's a 7-year-old out there and they're going to search until they can't search anymore."

Initially, Willow's mother thought she was wearing her oversized purple night shirt. She later found that shirt in the house. Deputies are working on an updated clothing description, but all they know right now is that she was not wearing her glasses when she left.

Volunteers we spoke with said the turnout is truly a testament to the community--but they're not really surprised by the showing.

The estimated 300-plus people searching through the town and surrounding fields is actually fewer than what they had on Sunday. School buses and pretty much all forms of mass transit in the area are being used to move volunteers around in the search. Unfortunately, the heat--especially in cornfields surrounding the small town--makes the search unbearable.

Officials said several volunteers have suffered from heat-related illnesses. They actually had to stop the search for three hours this afternoon due to the heat.

We're told the summer sun is also making some technology unusable.

"The problem with the planes is trying to find--with their resources--is the fields are so hot you cannot find that one little flow of body heat in a field that's been in the sunlight all day long," Monnet said.

The search picked back up at 5 p.m., but heat fatigue is slowing volunteers.

First responders said volunteers aren't afraid of the temperatures. They're still pouring in and sweating it out.

Anyone with information about Willow's whereabouts is urged to call the Effingham County Sheriff's Office at 217-342-2102.
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Updated September 9, 4:21 p.m.
Click here to see the 4 p.m. press briefing in its entirety.

Effingham County officials said the search was suspended from 2-5 p.m. due to heat. The search will continue until 8 p.m., when the civilian search will end due to darkness. Authorities will continue to search using infrared technology.

Another press conference will be held at 5 p.m.
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Updated September 9, 1:45 p.m.
Click here to see the 1 p.m. press briefing in its entirety.

WHERE SEARCHERS ARE LOOKING
In a press briefing this afternoon, Effingham County authorities said searchers are concentrating on a 20-square-mile area to find Willow. They have already searched 18 square miles, including all bodies of water around the house. Footprints found near one body of water turned out not to be Willow's.

WHAT WILLOW IS WEARING
Previous reports indicated Willow was wearing a purple nightgown. The nightgown has since been found inside the house, and police do not know what Willow was wearing when she left the house. Effingham County Sheriff John Monnet said Willow did not have her glasses with her when she left.

THE SEARCH CONTINUES
The search will be suspended from 2-5 p.m. this afternoon due to the heat. 300 volunteers are currently working on the search, and each is matched with a first responder. Authorities said no more volunteers are needed at this time.

HOW YOU CAN HELP
Authorities are re-interviewing neighbors, relatives, and friends to find out more about how Willow disappeared. They encourage all area residents to check their surveillance cameras and trail cams for any unusual activity, especially Sunday morning. They also encourage farmers to thoroughly search their property, including any out-buildings, for missing toys or other unusual activity.

The Effingham County Red Cross is assisting with water and supplies for the search teams.

WHAT'S NEXT
Authorities plan another press briefing around 4 p.m. today.

Click here to see the 1 p.m. press briefing in its entirety.
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Updated September 8, 6:45 p.m.

She's been missing since Sunday morning, and there is a desperate search to find her. Effingham County Deputies are searching for 7-year Willow Long, who is missing from her Watson home. That's about six miles south of Effingham.

The little girl has shoulder-length, red hair. She's between 3'10" and 4' tall and weighs around 46 pounds.

According to Effingham County police, Willow went missing between 9 and 10:15 Sunday morning, and was reported missing by her mother.

Illinois State Police, Watson Fire Department, Shumway Fire Department, and Edgewood Fire Departments are helping in the search for the girl.


 
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