CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. – A minor was arrested Tuesday night in connection with the death of 10-year-old Illiana “Lily” Peters, authorities said.
“The suspect was not a stranger,” Chippewa Falls Police Chief Matthew Kelm said at a news conference. “The suspect was known to the victim.” Police do not “believe there is a danger to the community at this time,” Kelm added.
Officers executed a search warrant at an address in the block where Lily had gone to visit her aunt on Sunday when she went missing. Kelm said. He did not disclose whether the search yielded any valuable evidence. “Evidence was collected and additional interviews were conducted,” Kelm said.
The chief declined to provide additional information about the cause of death, the suspect’s relationship to Lily, or the location of the arrest, except to say it was within city limits.
“I am convinced that there is no longer any danger for the community at this time,” he said.
Authorities had started looking for Lily after her father reported on Sunday evening that she had not returned home after visiting her aunt. Police say a bicycle believed to be his was found Sunday evening in the woods near the footpath.
Lily’s body was found around 9:15 a.m. Monday in a wooded area near the walking path.
Police had already received more than 200 tips on the case, Kelm said. “That advice was essential in resolving this case,” he said.
Kelm urged people to continue to avoid the path and the wooded area, describing it as “the scene of the crime”.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT LILY PETERS:Missing Wisconsin girl, 10, found dead
Peters’ body was found around 9:15 a.m. Monday in a wooded area near the walking path, police said.
“She’s a very nice little girl”
“She’s a very sweet little girl,” her great-grandmother, Diane Eyerly, said Tuesday in an interview with the Journal Sentinel, which is part of the USA TODAY Network. “She’s very polite and very kind.”
Peters’ death rocked the community of Chippewa Falls, about 100 miles east of the Twin Cities. Some gathered to tie purple ribbons to streetlights downtown in honor of her memory.
The news of Peters’ death was “absolutely devastating to our community,” said Jennifer Barrett. “We’re a tight-knit community, a great community of people,” she said. “That really hit us.”
Teri Ouimette said Lily’s murder left many people in Chippewa Falls shocked and helpless.
“You feel so helpless,” Ouimette said. “You want everything to be better. We don’t know what else to do. What can you do ?
“Where we can show our support right now”
A fence near Parkview Elementary — where Lily was a fourth grader — was lined with flowers, balloons, stuffed animals and other items left in memory of Peters.
Tiffany Thompson and her daughter-in-law, Lexy Frank, 8, stopped by the memorial as school ended on Tuesday afternoon. The past few days have not been easy, Thompson said, but have shown how the community can come together.
“As long as we can show them as much support and love and keep them informed on how to stay safe in the community right now, that’s the most important thing,” she said.
Thompson said she was worried about how her daughter-in-law would handle the situation, but leaving a few items, including a stuffed unicorn and a drawing, at the memorial seemed to help.
“We didn’t know how she would take it, but she’s very strong and she wants to support Lily as much as she can,” she said.
As students boarded buses outside the school, Thompson described the memorial as the place “where we can show our support right now.”
“Honestly, it makes us really hot inside,” she said. “To have the community come together and do things like this for a kid in our community is very special.”
Contributor: The Associated Press
Follow Hannah Kirby on Twitter at @HannahHopeKirby.