The agents from the Illinois State Police Zone 7 Investigations unit, which is based in Effingham, have received the Distinguished Service Award from the Illinois Homicide Investigators Association for the work on the September 2013 murder of 7-year-old Willow Long. The award was presented at the association’s annual conference in Itasca, Illinois. The award was given to all Special Agents of Zone 7 who worked on the case.
In receiving this honor, the Special Agents were commended for their exemplary performance, quality teamwork, and strong determination that lead to the conviction of Justin DeRyke. DeRyke would eventually plead guilty to the murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
Effingham County State’s Attorney Bryan Kibler commented, “As the State’s Attorney, it is my duty to praise quality police work. Thus, I want the people of Effingham County to know and realize that this award is a big deal. It affirms that the men and women of Zone 7 Investigations are amazing and everyone should know that fact.
The Special Agents receiving the award were Kelly Hodge, Ryan Shoemaker, Jeffrey Klein, Holly Finney, Albert Gallatin, and Timothy Brown. Brown served as the case agent on the investigation.