The 22-year-old man accused of killing his seven-year-old niece in Watson, Illinois, has pleaded not guilty.
Justin DeRyke was arrested earlier this month after his niece Willow Long went missing from her home. He was arraigned on three counts of first-degree murder Thursday.
Investigators say DeRyke told them he killed Long to "put her out of her misery" after he claims she fell onto a brush pile and her neck was pierced with a stick. Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence.
DeRyke is currently being held on $5 million bond and is scheduled to appear in court on October 22.
A memorial fund has been set up for Long at two Crossroads Bank locations in Effingham.
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