Coroner: 10-year-old Wisconsin girl died from blunt force trauma
14-year-old boy has been charged in her death.
CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. -- Preliminary autopsy results show that 10-year-old Lily Peters died of blunt force trauma.
A 14-year-old boy was arrested Tuesday in connection to the death of Peters, whose body was found Monday morning.
The teen was charged Wednesday in Chippewa County Court with one count of first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of sexual assault. He is currently being held in the Eau Claire Juvenile Detention Center on a $1 million cash bond.
He will return to court May 5. At least for now, he is charged in adult court; his attorneys could petition for the case to later be moved to a juvenile proceeding.
Chippewa County Coroner Ron Patten said the preliminary autopsy performed Wednesday confirmed that Peters' death was a homicide.
"The cause of death will be (ruled as) strangulation and blunt force trauma," Patten said Thursday. "We sent a bunch of stuff to the state crime lab, and we're waiting for toxicology, which may not show anything, and that could take four to six weeks."
Patten said he is not positive what weapon was used to cause blunt force trauma. The juvenile suspect reportedly told police he hit Peters with a stick.
"That information, we can't give out. We don't have proof of that at this point," Patten said.
Patten said he didn't have results yet to confirm if a sexual assault had occurred.
Lily Alert petition gathers signatures
The idea of creating a "Lily Alert" notification system gained steam this week, with more than 64,100 signatures on a petition at change.org.
Peters' father informed police Sunday night that she was missing. No Amber Alert was issued, because there was no evidence she was taken, and there was no description of who she could be with, or what vehicle she might be in.
Eric Henry, a Chippewa Falls resident, said he made the change.org petition because he hopes more could be done to inform the public when someone is missing.
"An Amber Alert was never sent due to the rules around what constitutes its use," Henry wrote on the change.org petition. "We need something more. Any parent would agree that when a child is missing even for a short amount of time and they need help then help should be sent. The community is devastated and rallied to start a search group for the missing child. We can do better as a community and must be more proactive. We need an alert with less regulations around it so we can respond quicker to missing children."
However, it is unclear how a "Lily Alert" system would be implemented, or if it would have changed anything in the horrific death of the 10-year-old.
State Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, said her office has been in touch with Henry. She isn't sure how the idea becomes a law that makes a difference.
"I appreciate the heartfelt, sincere desire to do something," Bernier said Thursday. "But before approaching legislation, you need all the facts to come out. To react, due to this tragedy, with another law, which wouldn't make a difference? I don't want to do a knee-jerk reaction before all the facts are fully out."
Bernier praised law enforcement for quickly solving the case. However, she said Henry's proposal offered no specifics of what would be included in a Lily Alert.
"I don't understand exactly what they wanted us to do, that could have saved this poor girl," Bernier said. "It's heart-breaking. I think everyone's hearts are just broken."
Lightbulbs for Lily
Jacobson's Hardware & Greenhouse in Chippewa Falls began disseminating free, purple light bulbs on Tuesday, for people to place outside their homes to honor and remember Lily.
"We had about 400 on Tuesday, and they were gone within an hour," said Zach Valk, store manager at Jacobson's Hardware in downtown Chippewa Falls. "We anticipate 600 more will be here (today)."
Valk said they plan to have 400 available at the downtown Chippewa Falls location and 200 at the store on Lake Wissota. He described the piece as an LED bulb with purple coating, creating the purple light.
"They last a little longer and are a little more efficient," he said.
Valk said staff from all five Jacobson's stores came together and developed the idea of giving away the free purple bulbs. He said it has been heartwarming to see the purple glow from homes in the city.
"It's pretty amazing how close-knit this community is, and how supportive they are," Valk said. "People have been thankful, calling us and asking when more are coming in."
If the bulbs arrive as anticipated today, they will be put on a table at the front of the stores.
"We're asking just one a household, so everyone can get one," Valk said.
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