Wisconsin 10-year-old Lily Peters was sexually assaulted after her strangling death at the hands of a boy four years her senior earlier this week, prosecutors revealed in a harrowing bond hearing Wednesday afternoon.
Judge Benjamin Lane agreed to prosecutors’ request to set bond at $1 million and ordered the defendant to avoid contact with minors, except his siblings, so long as such contact is supervised.
Prosecutors identified the suspect through his initials and only as a 14-year-old boy and alleged that the eighth-grader admitted to physically assaulting the child before strangling her to death and then sexually assaulting her.
“Protection of [the] community also is necessary in this case given his statements regarding his intentions and his statements regarding that when he did get off the trail, he punched the victim in the stomach, knocked her to the ground, essentially strangled her, hit her with a stick, before strangling her to the point of death — before he then sexually assaulted her,” Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell told the judge at the bond hearing.
Attorneys for the teen suspect requested $100,000 cash bond, arguing he is not a flight risk due to him being too young to drive.
The suspect was being held in a juvenile detention facility and appeared in court remotely.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Newell said the charges against the teen suspect were first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree sexual assault and first-degree sexual assault with a child under age 13 resulting in great bodily harm.
In Wisconsin, homicide defendants above the age of 10 years old can be tried in adult court, but the DA said it was “premature” to say whether that would be the case in this situation.
Lily’s remains were sent across state lines to the much larger jurisdiction of Ramsey County, Minnesota, which includes the city of St. Paul, where the autopsy was performed. Officials there said the results would be announced by authorities in her hometown.
Chippewa County Coroner Ronald Patten did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
For the suspect’s bond hearing, the judge said cameras are not allowed in the courtroom for the proceedings at 1 p.m. CT. The unidentified juvenile suspect was expected to appear remotely.
Lily’s father reported her missing at night after she failed to return home from her aunt’s house, according to Chippewa Falls police. A search team found her remains the following morning nearby, in a suburban area flanked by parkland and the famous Leinenkugel’s brewery.
Chippewa Falls Police Chief Matthew Kelm said an unidentified juvenile suspect had been taken into custody.
Dr. Michael Baden, a physician and forensic pathologist who formerly served as New York’s chief medical examiner, said it was rare but not unusual to outsource an autopsy in a high-profile case to a better-equipped jurisdiction.
St. Paul, an hour and 10 minutes to the west, has forensic pathologists on staff in its medical examiner’s office, he said, while the Chippewa County coroner’s office does not.
“They sent it to St. Paul because they didn’t feel that the coroner’s office there was able to handle it, which is all right, better that they sent it to a better place than do it themselves,” he said.
“First and most importantly, earlier this evening we arrested a juvenile suspect in this case,” he said. “The suspect was not a stranger. The suspect was known to the victim. We do not believe there is any danger to the community at this time.”
Police also served a search warrant at the aunt’s home on North Grove Street. Kelm would not comment on whether the suspect was arrested at the same address or related to Lily during his news briefing.
The chief declined to answer questions about the suspect’s age and gender but appeared to let a hint slip later in his briefing when asked where the suspect was being held.
“I’m not sure where the suspect is right now, but he is in custody,” Kelm said.
Police received more than 200 tips in the case, which Kelm said helped lead police to the suspect.
Police had warned Monday following Lily’s slaying there could still be an active danger to the public. They announced increased patrols around schools Tuesday morning and urged the community “to maintain a state of vigilance” as they hunted for a killer.
With the suspect in custody, community members said they felt more at ease.
“Monday and Tuesday morning were really, really stressful for parents in the community because they didn’t know who it, was and there was the slight chance that there was someone out there that was doing this, and that’s scary,” said Ingrid Sievers, a local business owner. “Our siblings have our nieces and nephews, they were very, very unsettled. You never want to hear about a family going through this.”
The investigation remained ongoing and anyone with information on the case was asked to call police at 1-800-263-5906.
Police in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, arrested a juvenile suspect in connection with the death of 10-year-old Illiana “Lily” Peters, Police Chief Matthew Kelm said at night.
“The suspect was not a stranger, the suspect was known to the victim,” Kelm told reporters. “We do not believe there is any danger to the community at this time.”
The chief neither released the name of the suspect nor how the suspect and Lily knew each other. He said the juvenile is in custody. Kelm did not say whether criminal charges had been filed.
The arrest comes one day after Lily’s body was found in the woods, prompting police to launch a homicide investigation.
Lily’s father called the police Sunday night when she did not come home from visiting her aunt’s house, the Chippewa Falls Police Department said in a news release Monday. Later that night, officers found a bicycle in a wooded area by a walking trail that is close to her aunt’s house and near the Leinenkugel’s Brewery Parking lot, said police.
Around 9 a.m, her body was found in the woods near the walking trail, said police. The Chippewa County Coroner’s Office confirmed the remains were Lily’s.
Officers believe Lily was last seen by family members the night of her disappearance, said the news release. She was supposed to be headed home from her aunt’s house when she disappeared, said police.
Overnight, authorities searched for Lily by going door to door and using K9 teams, the release said.
They used a drone to search the wooded area where her bike was found.
At a news conference Monday, Kelm did not elaborate on how the girl was killed or what evidence was found at the scene. Kelm said Tuesday authorities received more than 200 tips.
“These tips were critical to solving this case,” Kelm said.
A search warrant was executed at a home where evidence was collected and additional interviews were conducted, Kelm said.
“There is still much work to be done,” he said. “Our thoughts continue to be with the family during this terrible time.”
Marty Maloney, spokesperson for Leinenkugel’s, said in a statement Lily’s death was “an unspeakable, heartbreaking tragedy, and we want to express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victim.
We are working with the authorities, and providing the help and support we can.”
In a message to parents on afternoon, the Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District said its buildings are on “high alert,” but that law enforcement didn’t indicate the need for a lockdown.
Police on Tuesday announced an increased presence around Chippewa Falls schools. “We will be increasing our patrol especially during drop-off and pick-up times,” the department said in a statement.
The district is recommending that students who walk to school be picked up and dropped off by trusted family members or friends “until further notice,” and parents are asked to be “more vigilant and alert during this time.”
In a message sent to school staff, administrators asked that teachers “respect the family by not spreading rumors.” Teachers are encouraged to make sure older students are sensitive toward younger students who may not know what happened.
Michael Houle, a senior pastor at Valley Vineyard Church in Chippewa Falls, where Lily’s relatives are members, has opened the church’s doors to the community as a safe space to grieve, he said.
“Our mission is to reach out to our community in a positive way and to be a light in Chippewa Falls during this difficult time,” he said. “We live in very generous town. Our community is coming together to meet the needs of family, community members, schools, and first responders. This is just the start and will be an ongoing process over the next weeks.”
Multiple agencies are assisting in the investigation, including the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation and the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratories, Kelm said. Lily’s family is working with victim advocates, said Kelm, and the school district, where she attended fourth grade, said in a Facebook post it is “working closely with the police.”