WATSON — Willow Long's brother was taken into protective custody after a report of abuse the day the 7-year-old slain girl was reported missing.
Long's 3-year-old brother has been taken into protective custody by the Department of Child and Family Services. Dave Clarkin, a spokesperson for DCFS, said the agency became involved with the case after receiving a call to its abuse hotline.
"We received a hotline report on Sunday and immediately launched an investigation for protective custody and on Tuesday, it was upheld in juvenile court," he said. "Overall, seeking protective custody is, in itself, rather rare, and we do so only when we believe it is necessary for the safety of the child or children."
Clarkin said he could not divulge details of the hotline report which prompted DCFS' involvement with the case but did say the reason for some confusion on the case may be because the agency rarely takes protective custody of a child in Effingham County.
"It may seem unusual to folks in Effingham County because, luckily, these are rare occurrences in the case of child death or abuse," he said.
Safety also may be an issue for Long's uncle, Justin DeRyke, who has been charged with three counts of first degree murder in the case, since his incarceration. An official source said DeRyke has been the subject of threats from some individuals coming into the Effingham County Jail.
Chief Deputy John Niccum of the Effingham County Sheriff's Department said he was unaware of any threats against DeRyke but said the department is trying to guarantee the safety of the suspect, just as it protects anyone else in county jail.
"Of course, we're always concerned about the safety of our inmates, and we take into account where they're placed and that they're safe," he said. "That's part of our job. We're using every precaution we can."