Effingham County man charged in death of niece

An Effingham County man is being held on $5 million bond after being accused of stabbing his seven year-old niece to death.

Effingham County prosecutors on Wednesday charged 22 year-old Justin DeRyke of Watson with three counts of first degree murder. The criminal complaint states that the victim, Willow Long, was at home on Saturday night in Watson with DeRyke and Willow's three year-old brother while Willow's mother went to a bar. DeRyke told investigators that Willow ran outside after he yelled at her for scratching his arm. She then fell on a brush pile and impaled herself in the neck with a stick. DeRyke told authorities that he believed he had to end Willow's suffering, which he accomplished by cutting her throat and attempting to stab her in the heart about five times. He said he placed the child into several plastic bags and disposed of her body.

Preliminary autopsy results show that the most likely cause of Willow's death was from wounds inflicted by a knife or knives.

Meanwhile, authorities said Willow's mother was feeling ill and went back to bed Sunday morning, only to wake up a short time later and find her daughter missing.

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