Justin DeRyke was in court Thursday to enter a not guilty plea for the murder of his young niece.
With the plea, DeRyke moved the case closer to a trial. Police say DeRyke admitted to stabbing 7-year-old Willow Long to death, but he claims it was to "put her out of her misery". He claims that the girl fell into a pile of brush and a stick stabbed her in the neck. An autopsy result turned up evidence that prosecutors say contradict his story. The judge set the trial for December 2.
If convicted, DeRyke faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.