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‘Another Piece Of The Horror’: Teen Accused In 10-Year-Old Lily Peters Killing, Rape Appears In Court
Lily Peters, 10, was beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted, allegedly by a 14-year-old boy in a crime that has shaken the small community of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
A 14-year-old boy allegedly beat, strangled, sexually assaulted, and killed Lily Peters, the 10-year-old Wisconsin girl whose body was found in the woods earlier this week, prosecutors said Wednesday.
The juvenile suspect, whose name hasn’t been officially released, appeared before a judge during his first court appearance yesterday. He was arrested on Tuesday, two days after Peters’ body was discovered near a wooded walking trail in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
In court, prosecutors alleged the unidentified teenager had confessed to Peters’ killing, which they characterized as premeditated.
“His intention was to rape and kill the victim from the get-go,” Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell said in court, CNN reported.
The suspect allegedly punched Peters in the stomach and “hit her with a stick, before strangling her to the point of death,” prosecutors said.
“He then sexually assaulted her,” Newell said.
The 14-year-old was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree sexual assault, and first-degree sexual assault of a person under 13 resulting in great bodily harm. The teen could face up to life in prison if convicted on the murder and sexual assault of a minor charges.
“I think it’s a very serious case that needs to be dealt with as is intended by the law,” Newell also told reporters, Minneapolis television station KARE reported.
Police previously said the juvenile suspect knew Peters, but declined to elaborate.
“The suspect was not a stranger,” Chippewa Falls Police Chief Matthew Kelm said during a Monday news conference. “The suspect was known to the victim. We do not believe there is any danger to the community at this time. While nothing will bring Lily Peters or change what happened, we are very grateful to be able to deliver this news for the family or for the community.”
Peters, who was last seen alive by family members, was found murdered on Monday morning near a footpath in a wooded area in Chippewa Falls. The 10-year-old was reported missing the previous evening after she didn’t return home after leaving her aunt’s house, local police said.
Peters’ bicycle was later found in the woods, a short distance from her relatives’ home. Authorities, who deployed drones and police dogs, conducted an extensive search of the area, and ultimately recovered her remains hours later from a footpath near a brewery parking lot.
The community, including area schools, were placed on “high alert” after Peters’ body was found, prior to the 14-year-old being taken into police custody.
A judge set the juvenile suspect’s bond at $1 million on Wednesday after prosecutors had argued the 14-year-old was a potential flight risk, despite protests from the teen’s attorney.
“He cannot drive,” public defender Karl Schmidt told the court, according to CNN. “He is not in a position to raise much money, frankly, at all on his own. He resides with his mother. He is a lifetime resident of Chippewa County.”
The teen's next court date is set for May 5. Schmidt didn’t immediately respond to Oxygen.com’s requests for comment regarding the open case on Thursday morning.
Peters’ sudden death rocked the small eastern Wisconsin community of roughly 14,000. Community leaders and residents, who have set up a bank fund to help her family cover funeral expenses, and have since rallied around the 10-year-old’s family.
“It’s shocking,” Teri Ouimette, executive director of Chippewa Falls Main Street, told Oxygen.com on Thursday morning. “There’s not much more you can say about that, there’s no words…Chippewa Falls has had a couple of pretty huge tragedies. Nothing like this…Everyone is still trying to digest it all.”
The arrest of the juvenile suspect was another crippling blow to the community, Ouimette said.
“That’s another piece of the horror,” she said. “Here you think this horrible thing has happened and now we find out it’s a juvenile. That’s another hit to the gut to find that out. We’re very happy and very pleased with our police department, of course, and all of the other law enforcement agencies that managed to get this figured out. The hits keep coming. It’s horrible.”
Peters was a fourth grade student at Parkview Elementary School in Chippewa Falls.
Purple “Justice For Lily” stickers, pins, yard signs, and T-shirts, designed by a local artist have sprung up to memorialize the 10-year-old. (Peters was wearing a purple shirt when she disappeared, police told Oxygen.com.) In a show of strength and solidarity, hundreds of purple ribbons could also be seen dotting the streets of downtown Chippewa Falls. After sundown, a number of Chippewa Falls buildings, including schools, hydro facilities, and people’s homes, could be seen glowing in purple (a local hardware store, hawking hundreds of purple LED light bulbs, has since sold out).
Memorial sites, adorned with flowers, teddy bears, and balloons, have also cropped up elsewhere across the small but resilient city.
“There’s not a lot we can do but we can support each other in this horrible time,” Ouimette explained. “All the businesses downtown are doing fundraisers, taking donations. One in particular is printing off signage, as well as stickers, and buttons. There are different entities, from beauty salons with purple hair streaks, with 100 percent of proceeds going [to the] fundraiser.”
The Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District has also encouraged all students, staff, and local residents to wear purple on Friday in memory of Peters.
“People are gathering and comforting each other and we will definitely get through this and be a stronger community for it,” Ouimette said. “Everyone is still kind of shell shocked…we have no answers. I don’t know if we’ll ever get any.”