Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

September 13, 2013

Long's brother taken into custody after abuse report

Jackson Adams
Effingham Daily News

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."

Niccum cited the increased security at DeRyke's probable cause hearing on Wednesday as an example of measures taken to guarantee DeRyke's safety.

Meanwhile, Effingham County officials are waiting for final autopsy results to find out the exact time of Long's death.

"It's sometime between 10:30 and 11 [p.m.] Saturday," said Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler.

Kibler said the amount of evidence taken by police and volunteers, as well as the circumstances of the crime are causing the longer wait for the exact information about the death. A full autopsy, which includes full toxicology, generally takes between four to six weeks, he added.

"So much evidence was taken, and it's going to take time," Kibler said."There's no need to rush through this. The person who did this is in custody, and we're going to do this right."

Reports of a third crime scene in the Long investigation have proven to be false. Blood found on a sidewalk in the 300 block of West Main in Watson led some to claim there was a third crime scene in the police investigation. Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Ryan Shoemaker said the blood found was the result of a volunteer's injury.

"There was blood discovered on a sidewalk near an abandoned home, and it turned out one of the searchers had touched a window and cut their hand and shook their hand next to the window and left a blood trail," he said. "We've verified who the searcher was, and it's purely incidental. It's not anything to do with the crime."

Shoemaker said any possible evidence which may be involved in an investigation needs to be investigated, which prompted the state police to examine the blood. He cautioned searchers to report all injuries to officials so as not to waste additional police man hours.

"We've got to exhaust all of those leads when you see something," he said. "We had to make sure that had nothing to do with the crime."