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Chippewa Falls police investigating death of 10-year-old Iliana Peters as homicide

Police confirmed Monday that the body of “Lily” Peters was located in a wooded area around 9:15 a.m., about 12 hours after she was reported missing by her family.

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. — Chippewa Falls police confirmed In a press conference Monday that the body of 10-year-old Iliana "Lily" Peters, who was reported missing Sunday night, has been recovered and investigators believe she is the victim of homicide.

Authorities said early Monday that the child's father called 911 around 9 p.m. Sunday after she did not return from a visit to her aunt's home on the 400 block of North Grove Street.

Squads responded to the area and learned that someone had located Lily's bike a short distance from her aunt's home just off the Duncan Creek walking trail, not far from the Leinenkugel's Brewery Parking lot. 

In Monday's press conference, Police Chief Matthew Kelm said Lily's body was discovered around 9:15 a.m. Monday close to where her bike was found. 

Kelm urged residents to maintain a state of vigilance, as the child's death is being investigated as a homicide and "there may be a danger to the public." 

He told reporters there are no known suspects at this point, but investigators are pursuing leads.

"We will be working diligently and tirelessly on this case," Kelm promised. 

Chippewa Falls police called in multiple agencies to help with the search, including K9 teams and drone operators. The chief said finding Lily and the circumstances behind her death are difficult for all involved. 

"As you can imagine, our first responders are tremendously impacted by anything that impacts one of our children," Kelm said, "so it is very difficult for them, and the investigators."

In a statement to KARE 11, Leinenkugel's representative Marty Maloney confirmed that the business is working with authorities "and providing the help and support we can."

"This is an unspeakable, heartbreaking tragedy, and we want to express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victim," Maloney said.

In a second press conference Monday evening, Kelm announced that a tip line for the case has been established, urging people who think they have any information regarding Peters' death to come forward. He reiterated that police are actively investigating leads, and have yet to place a suspect in custody.

"The people of our community are honest, hardworking and kind-hearted. It is almost impossible to believe that something this horrific could happen in our city," Kelm reflected. "An event like this threatens our sense of security, however, I believe we will come together as a community to overcome this fear."

The chief again said the community should stay focused, and aware.

"The simple fact is that we have not yet made an arrest in this case. We just want to be extra vigilant."

Michael Houle, senior pastor at Valley Vineyard Church in Chippewa Falls, opened his congregation's doors on Monday night to give people space to grieve Lily's death. 

Houle said the community felt a mix of shock, anger, and sadness.

"We still have questions we don't know. And grief is hard when you don't have all the answers," Houle said. "It's like someone has been stolen." 

The pastor encouraged Chippewa Falls residents to gather at the church, or at least with each other. "The worse thing tonight is to be alone," Houle asserted. "Because grief alone is actually dangerous. Grief together allows the process of healing to start, or at least a place to have and be grounded."

Lily was a fourth-grader at Parkview Elementary in Chippewa Falls. On Monday afternoon, district officials sent a message to staff members saying schools are not going to formally announce what happened to Lily, as they believe law enforcement will decide what should and shouldn't be shared about the case. The district also shared guidelines for talking to children about what happened should they ask questions, and emphasized that parents should be the ones to initiate and engage in such sensitive conversations. 

Anyone with information about Peters' death is urged to call the tip line at 1-800-263-5906.

This is a developing story. KARE 11 will provide more details as new information becomes available.

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