A southern Illinois man is headed to jail after admitting that he killed his 7-year-old niece in September. Justin DeRyke claims Willow Long had fallen and impaled herself on a stick while running outside, so he wanted to "put her out of her misery." The little girl's 22-year-old uncle was charged with first-degree murder for stabbing the child.
He's been sentenced to life in prison, but it wasn't a conviction that came easy for prosecutors. After all, Willow's own mother had originally lied to protect her murderer.
When Willow was first reported missing, Justin's sister, Ciara, told police she'd last seen her daughter on a Sunday morning and that the girl took off on her own. But according to the police timeline constructed after the girl's body was found wrapped in plastic and duct tape at a nearby pond, Willow was already dead by the time mom claimed to have last seen the child.
Talk about a big lie!
Ciara was charged with obstruction of justice over this whole thing and has already served her sentence. But her lie has come back once again to haunt her with Justin's sentencing for his heinous crime.
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And once again we find ourselves asking what kind of mom can lie for the person who killed her child? Even if that person is her own brother?
Was it simply that she couldn't face the idea of her own flesh and blood doing something so awful? I can dig it ... none of us want to think of the people we love and care for doing something bad, least of all to someone ELSE we love and care for. How many parents turn a blind eye to their children's misdeeds because they just can't bring themselves to face the truth?
But Justin was not Ciara's kid. Willow was. If there was someone whose side she was supposed to be more willing to jump to, it should have been her daughter's, no matter how much she loved her brother.
That's what being a parent is all about. Your kids become your first priority, your first family.
At least the law was looking out for Willow and brought her killer to justice. If only it hadn't come to this.
Put yourself in the mom's shoes. Can you think of any reason for her to protect her brother over her daughter?
Image via Effingham County Sheriff's Office