Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

December 10, 2013

Willow's mom makes first court appearance

Jackson Adams
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM —

Ciara DeRyke, the mother of slain Willow Long, made her first court appearance in Effingham County Circuit Court Tuesday.

DeRyke, 26, is charged with obstructing a peace officer, a Class A misdemeanor, punishable with up to 364 days in jail and a $2,500 fine.

The charge is in reference to statements DeRyke made to police officers on Sept. 8 that she had made breakfast for her daughter that morning and had gone to bed. Upon waking, she claimed that Willow had left the home. However, all evidence points to Willow already being dead and her body concealed by that time, therefore, DeRyke would not have seen her daughter.

Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler said the charge of obstructing a peace officer rather than obstructing justice was delivered as there is no evidence that DeRyke knew about the murder of Willow when she told police about her disappearance.

“What we're alleging is she didn't participate in the murder, the concealment of the murder and didn't know about the murder when she made that statement to police,” he said.

Kibler said statements DeRyke made about when she had last allegedly seen her daughter, as well as the time of Willow's disappearance, led investigators and volunteers to construct a grid to begin the search. That grid took into account the amount of time Willow would have been missing on Sept. 8, as well as how far she could have gone.

“That grid was based on false information,” Kibler said.

Kibler said DeRyke told investigators on Sept. 10 that her initial statements to police had been false and that she had not seen her daughter on Sept. 8. The statements came after Ciara's brother, Justin DeRyke, was arrested for the murder of Willow. Kibler said the amount of time between DeRyke admitting her lie to police and her arrest was due to investigators trying to discern whether she was involved with the murder or concealing the body.

“I think we were confident very early on that she was lying,” he said. “We waited three months to be very clear and confident that she wasn't involved in the murder. The ultimate conclusion is Ciara wasn't mistaking the facts to protect Justin or conceal the crime.”

Kibler said the State's theory, which is backed up by conclusions made by Illinois State Police Investigators, is DeRyke made her false statements to police to appear to be a better mother after having been out the night of the murder.

“She was trying to make herself look like a better parent,” he said.

Barry Schaefer was appointed to defend DeRyke, pending availability. He had previously represented DeRyke in a past case.

DeRyke's next appearance is at 10 a.m. Dec. 19. She is still in custody at this time.

Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or at jackson.adams@effinghamdailynews.com.