Cayce M. Williams, 47, of Crystal Lake, and 20-month-old Quortney Kley. | Provided Photos.

The man who moved to Crystal Lake after being released from his 24-year prison sentence for raping and murdering a toddler in 1997 claims he is innocent and the girl’s death was an “accident.”

Cayce M. Williams, 47, was released on Thursday from the Dixon Correction Center after serving almost 24 years in jail and prison, which is around half of his original 48-year sentence.

Williams pleaded guilty to one count of murder and one count of predatory criminal sexual assault in 2006 in Elgin in Kane County.

He had been charged with the death of 20-month-old Quortney Kley, who was his then-girlfriend’s daughter.

Williams’ girlfriend at the time, Margaret Morgan, was at work on February 25, 1997, and the man was tasked with babysitting Quortney and her sister.

Williams sexually assaulted Quortney and beat her to death, prosecutors said. He took the toddler to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

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Illinois truth-in-sentencing guidelines at the time required anyone convicted of first-degree murder to serve 100% of their sentence.

However, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the law in 1999 because they said it violated a provision of the Illinois Constitution that requires legislation to be limited to a single subject.

Williams only served half his sentence because of that. Illinois later revised the law to make first-degree murder served at 100% of the sentence again.

The Northwest Herald interviewed Williams on Friday at his new residence at 360 Briarwood Road in unincorporated Crystal Lake, which is his brother’s girlfriend’s home.

“First and foremost, I want to apologize to the community here that I bring any discomfort being at this residence,” Williams told a Northwest Herald reporter.

“I’m not trying to be a discomfort to this neighborhood, but I also want to get out there that I am innocent of these charges,” he added.

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Williams claimed Quortney’s death was an accident and that his confession to detectives was made under “great duress,” the paper reported.

Williams claimed Quortney was lying on a plastic Lego bag when he thought she stopped breathing.

The man said he tried CPR. “I’m not really a small guy, so the pressure I was applying – obviously it was too much,” Williams said. “I don’t know. I was drunk. I was high. In that state, in your panic, I shook her.”

Kane County State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser told the Northwest Herald that those claims are “not even remotely” true.

Mosser said the forensic evidence doesn’t align with Williams’ account. “I think he’s had 24 years to make it up,” Mosser said, adding that Williams needs to take responsibility for what he did.

“I understand the resident’s concerns with Williams’ release into our community. I want to reassure the residents that we proactively and continually verify all of our registered sexual offender’s information to ensure that they comply with the Illinois Sexual Offender Registration Act,” McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim said in a statement.