Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

December 19, 2013

Willow's mom pleads not guilty to obstruction charge

Bond lowered

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — The mother of slain Willow Long pleaded not guilty this morning to charges that she lied to police about seeing her daughter the morning of her disappearance.

Ciara N. DeRyke, 26, is charged with obstructing a peace officer, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. DeRyke's daughter, Willow Long, was found dead by volunteer searchers south of Watson on Sept. 9. Judge Sherri Tungate set pretrial for 10 a.m. Jan. 16 and jury selection for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 10.

DeRyke has been accused of misleading police by lying that she had seen her daughter earlier on the morning of Sept. 8 when Willow would have already been deceased, according to testimony. Authorities allege her statements triggered a misguided search that involved more than 1,000 volunteers in blazing heat — and caused three searchers to receive treated for heat-related symptoms.

Ciara DeRyke's younger brother, Justin, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with Willow's death. His next court appearance is Jan. 9.

Also at Thursday's hearing, Tungate lowered Ciara DeRyke's bond from $75,000 to $15,000 after defense attorney Barry Schaefer successfully argued that the woman had ties to the area and was not a flight risk. Schaefer also noted that Ciara DeRyke had a limited criminal history with no felonies on her record.

For more, see Friday's print edition.