Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

September 9, 2013

Grandfather fears granddaughter abducted

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

WATSON — The maternal grandfather of the Watson girl missing since Sunday morning told reporters Monday evening he does not believe 7-year-old Willow Long is still in the area.

"I think it's an abduction, but not for ransom," said Dale De Ryke. Young Willow and her mother, Ciara De Ryke, had been living with the elder De Rykes at a home on Circle Drive in Watson.

De Ryke said Willow wasn't the kind who would just wander off.

"I know my granddaughter, and she would never willingly leave the yard unless it was with somebody she knew," he said, adding he believes she was lured away from the residence by some sort of acquaintance.

De Ryke, a truck driver, said he learned of Willow's disappearance Sunday while hauling a load to the Pinnacle Foods plant in Lemoyne, Pa. He returned home about 6:30 p.m. Monday to a town buzzing with police, fire and other emergency personnel — as well as hundreds of volunteers from throughout the region.

"I have never seen a search effort as good as this one," he said. "I have nothing but good to say about what they are doing."

But De Ryke complained he hasn't been allowed to see his son Justin, Willow's uncle, and was only able to speak to daughter Ciara briefly.

"I believe they are treating family members as suspects, including myself," he said. "I don't care. I don't have anything to hide."

De Ryke said he would like to see Willow reunited with her family as soon as possible.

"I'm hoping for a resolution," he said. "Even if it's bad, you never want to be left hanging."