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A 10-year-old Wisconsin girl was found dead in a wooded area on Monday morning after disappearing over the weekend.
The young girl, who was last seen alive by family members, was reported missing by her father after she didn’t come home from her aunt’s house. Peters’ bicycle was later found near a hiking trail and a brewery parking lot at the end of North Grove Street in Chippewa Falls.
The 10-year-old’s remains were since positively identified by the Chippewa County Coroner’s Office. Foul play is suspected, however a cause and manner of death weren’t immediately released. Authorities have now turned their attention to identifying a suspect in the young girl’s apparent murder, although no arrests had been made as of Tuesday morning.
"At this point we are considering this a homicide investigation," Chippewa Falls Police Chief Matthew Kelm said in a press release statement on Monday morning. "We do not have anyone in custody and are continuing to follow up on multiple leads."
Prior to the grisly discovery, authorities had scoured the area where the girl’s bike was found using police dogs and a drone. Officials also went door-to-door speaking with neighborhood residents.
Chippewa Falls, a small community of approximately 14,000 people, is nestled in eastern Wisconsin, about 100 miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the wake of the girls’ puzzling death, officials warned local citizens to “maintain a state of vigilance as there may be a danger to the public.”
During a press conference Monday, authorities remained tight-lipped about details surrounding the girls’ death.
“The simple fact is that we have not made an arrest in this case, so the suspect is still at large,” Kelm also said during a press conference on Monday, CNN reported. “So in that case, we just want to be extra vigilant and make sure that if there are any tips, anyone has any information, to go ahead and call that tip line.”
Chippewa Police Department also said they’d “increased” police patrol presence around local schools.
“We will be increasing our patrol especially during drop-off and pick-up times,” a separate police statement read.
Peters was a fourth grade student at Parkview Elementary School in Chippewa Falls, which also has been placed on “high alert” in the wake of the 10-year-old’s slaying.
On Monday, school officials also urged parents and guardians to use extreme caution, advising them Monday to drop off and pick up their children from district schools until further notice.
“Our buildings are on high alert; however, law enforcement has not indicated the need to consider ‘lockdown’ settings at this time,” the Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District wrote in a memo to parents. “Please be more vigilant and alert during this time. If you, your child(ren), or friends notice anything out of the ordinary, please immediately report it to law enforcement first.”
School district officials, who declined to comment directly on the active investigation, described Peters’ death as “extremely tragic” in a separate letter addressed to staff.
"Our heart goes out to the Chippewa Falls community and Lily’s family as they are going through the unthinkable," Rebecca Steinbach, a spokesperson for the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, said a statement sent to Oxygen.com on Monday. "Because so much is still unknown, it is important for everyone to stay vigilant."
No further information has been released by authorities this week.
"To maintain the integrity of this very active and ongoing investigation, I am unable to provide further details at this time,” Kelm added on Monday. “We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Lilly Peters during this tragic time.”
A spokesperson for the Chippewa Falls Police Department declined to comment on the ongoing investigation when contacted by Oxygen.com on Tuesday morning.
Police are urging anyone who may have additional details regarding Peters’ disappearance and murder to contact the Chippewa Falls Police Department tip line at 1-800-263-5906 or by calling 715-726-7701.
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