Slain girl’s mother speaks at Effingham memorial

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EFFINGHAM, IL (AP) – The mother of 7-year-old Willow Long, who was found stabbed to death last year, has spoken at a memorial walk for the girl after pleading guilty earlier this year to a misdemeanor in connection with the case.

Ciara DeRyke was sentenced to 120 days in jail and probation in January after pleading guilty to an obstruction charge that accused her of lying to police who were investigating the girl’s disappearance. Willow’s uncle, Justin DeRyke, is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in March to first-degree murder for stabbing the girl in the chest.

On Sunday, Ciara DeRyke spoke with a trembling voice to a crowd at the Walk for Willow event, telling them her late daughter had an “outgoing, positive look on life,” the Effingham Daily News reported.`I started to write a couple different speeches, but I trashed them and decided to just come up here and talk about Willow,” Ciara DeRyke said. “She was the most beautiful, happy little girl ever.”

Searchers found Willow’s body Sept. 9, 2013, a few miles from her family’s Watson home, wrapped in several garbage bags and sealed with duct tape.

Prosecutors at the time said Ciara DeRyke didn’t participate in her daughter’s killing or make efforts to conceal it. Instead they said she lied to investigators about when she saw her daughter to appear to be a better mother. That deception thwarted the search for the girl, prosecutors said.
Information from: Effingham Daily News,

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