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A juvenile suspect has been arrested in the killing of a 10-year-girl whose body turned up in a wooded area in Wisconsin hours after she vanished over the weekend.
An unidentified minor was taken into police custody Tuesday in the death of Lily Peters, Chippewa Falls Police Department announced. The juvenile suspect’s name hasn’t been officially released, however, police said Peters’ alleged killer knew the slain fourth grader.
Peters’ body was found near a wooded footpath, adjacent to a brewery parking lot, in Chippewa Falls on Sunday. The grim discovery was made following an extensive search by investigators, who deployed police dogs and drones, in frantic efforts to locate the young girl.
“The suspect was not a stranger,” Chippewa Falls Police Chief Matthew Kelm told reporters at a press conference on Monday evening. “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.”
Local police, who were assisted by county, state, and federal investigators, combed through approximately 200 community tips prior to making an arrest in Peters’ killing.
“These tips were critical to solving this case,” Kelm added.
The 10-year-old, who was last seen alive by family members on Sunday evening, vanished after leaving her aunt’s house, law enforcement said. Police didn’t specify the suspect's connection to Peters.
It remains unclear how Peters was killed. A forensic autopsy is still pending in the 10-year-old’s death, investigators said.
“There is still much work to be done,” Kelm stated. “Our thoughts continue to be with the family through this terrible time. We would ask everyone to keep them in your thoughts while respecting their privacy while they grieve.”
A large police presence was still visible on Monday near the end of North Grove Street where Peters’ body was recovered.
“Our security team has and will continue to hold the crime scene which is the wooded area around the footpath,” Kelm said.
Prior to the juvenile suspect’s arrest, police had warned residents of Chippewa Falls, a small community of roughly 14,000, to remain “vigilant” regarding the possibility of additional attacks. Area district schools, which were also placed on “high alert,” implemented a number of temporary safety measures before authorities announced they’d apprehended the alleged perpetrator.
Peters was a fourth grade student at Parkview Elementary in Chippewa Falls.
“We are relieved that Chief Kelm was able to calm our fears with the following statement, ‘with the suspect in custody, the public is no longer in danger,’” the Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District said in a memo sent to staff on Wednesday morning.
Peters’ killing has stunned the sleepy small eastern Wisconsin community, which has banded together to collectively mourn the girl's untimely death. In a show of support, hundreds of purple stickers, buttons, and yard signs have cropped around Chippewa Falls in solidarity with Peters' family.
“Our community is special that way where we band together and we want to keep it safe here and when stuff like this happens it just throws people through a loop,” Carl Smiskey, a local business owner, told Oxygen.com.
Smiskey, whose souvenir and screen printing shop is manufacturing the purple memorial goods in Peters’ memory, is donating proceeds to a community bank fund for the 10-year-old’s family.
“We are a community, we lost somebody, and we want to prevent it where we can, and we also want to show love to the family and the people that knew her, that we care, that they’re not going to be shoved under the rug, this something that hits home for every person that has a family member, a youth,” Smiskey said.
Peters’ killing hits particularly close to home for the Wisconsin proprietor, who's a father to two daughters.
“The thought of losing them to something like this, I couldn’t even imagine,” he added. “I wouldn’t even know what to do, they’d probably have to put me in a psych ward.”
Smiskey compared the community impact of Peters' death to the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which Chippewa Falls largely “shut down.”
“People went to work and stuff but the conversations were all about Lily and what’s going on,” Smiskey said. “And now people are wondering, what’s next? And we’re just watching this play out right. We still have a lot of police presence here. I have a lot of questions.”
No additional information was released by law enforcement. A spokesperson for the Chippewa Falls Police Department declined to comment further on the active case when contacted by Oxygen.com on Wednesday morning.
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