EFFINGHAM — Murder suspect Justin DeRyke will not stand trial now before April.
Judge J. Marc Kelly granted a defense motion Tuesday in Effingham County Circuit Court to push back the trial date for DeRyke, 22, to April 7. Jury selection is set for 8:30 a.m. that day.
Kelly said DeRyke's next pretrial hearing for 11 a.m. March 18.
DeRyke is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the stabbing death last September of his niece, Willow Long. Willow's body was found south of Watson on Sept. 9 after an exhaustive search that involved more than 1,000 people in blazing heat. DeRyke was arrested that day and jailed in lieu of $5 million bond. He has remained in jail ever since.
Authorities believe DeRyke killed his niece sometime late Sept. 7 or early Sept. 8. State's Attorney Bryan Kibler has said he would seek "natural life" or life in prison without the possibility of parole for DeRyke. Illinois no longer has a death penalty.
Public Defender Scott Schmidt told Kelly he didn't believe "it was realistic" to try the case in March. Schmidt said he filed the motion after consulting with both DeRyke and Kibler. Kibler did not object to the defense request.
After Kelly asked DeRyke if he wanted to consult with Schmidt before the motion was granted, the defendant met with his attorney for about a minute outside the courtroom. When the pair returned, DeRyke agreed to the delay.
DeRyke's older sister (and Willow's mother), Ciara N. DeRyke, pleaded guilty last week to misleading police about when she last saw her daughter, triggering the massive search. Ciara DeRyke, 26, is scheduled to be released from jail sometime this week for time served.