EFFINGHAM — Jury selection in the case of a Watson man accused of killing his niece last month is set for Dec. 2.
But Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler told reporters after a brief pretrial hearing for Justin S. DeRyke Tuesday that it is unlikely a jury would hear the case before early next year because of the voluminous amount of information compiled in connection with the investigation.
"While the defendant has the right to a speedy trial, the most likely scenario (for a jury trial) is sometime in early 2014," Kibler said.
DeRyke, 22, is being held at Effingham County Jail in lieu of $5 million bond. He is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the death of 7-year-old Willow Long on or about Sept. 8. Willow's body was found Sept. 9 south of Watson.
Under Illinois law, a suspect can be charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder for one victim
Kibler told Judge Sherri Tungate during Tuesday's hearing that he received more than 500 pages of documents from Illinois State Police investigators. With other reports by Effingham city and county investigators, Kibler said there were about 730 pages total, all of which he shared with Public Defender Scott Schmidt.
But Kibler added that he expects even more potential evidence after the Illinois State Police crime lab finishes testing various types of evidence.
"It will most likely be early December before we get that stuff back," the prosecutor said.
Tungate set DeRyke's next court appearance for 11 a.m. Nov. 25. Kibler said Tuesday that the judge would likely set a new jury trial date at that hearing.
Kibler said after the hearing that barring a guilty plea that would pre-empt the trial, the jury may not be from Effingham County.
"If it goes to trial, I anticipate a change of venue motion being filed," he said.