EFFINGHAM, IL (WTHI) - A tiny, Illinois village can finally begin finding closure after one of its youngest residents was laid to rest Monday afternoon.
Family, friends and total strangers remembered Willow Long, 7, vanished from her home in the village of Watson one week ago Sunday. Her body turned up Monday night only a few miles from the Watson boundary.
"I'm just here today out of respect for Willow,” said Cindy Moore, a resident of Casey, IL, who didn’t know Willow Long but drove the 35 miles just to pay her respects. “We had a young man that came up missing from our town. They developed a search, and I was involved with that.”
One family member noticeably absent is the man authorities are hoping to see charged in her murder. Justin DeRyke, 22, Willow Long’s uncle, is in jail and could be facing first-degree murder charges later this week.
When young Willow vanished eight days ago, Illinois State Police, the only agency able to launch an Amber Alert, made a conscious decision to not issue one.
"Our police department and the state police, everybody gave it their all to find this little girl,” Cindy Moore defended. “I'm sure they were shocked to learn what they did, but -- I'm positive that they done everything that they could do!"
News 10 contacted ISP’s Effingham post, where staff deferred entirely to the Effingham State’s Attorney’s office. That office did not return News 10’s phone call prior to news time.
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