Lily Peters murder: Local lawmaker vows to review Amber Alert policy as Change.org petition grows

Calls grow for changes to emergency child abduction system after Lily Peters was found sexually assaulted and strangled in Chippewa Falls

Rachel Sharp
Friday 29 April 2022 16:10
Prosecutor says suspect planned to rape and kill Lily Peters

A Wisconsin lawmaker has vowed to review the current Amber Alert process for missing children as a Change.org petition calling for the launch of a “Lily Alert” grows following the shocking murder of 10-year-old Lily Peters.

Wisconsin State Rep Jesse James said he plans to meet with local police chiefs “about what is in place and look at possibilities for improvement” when children are reported missing in the state, in a memo shared on the Change.org petition page.

“We are not sure yet what can and will be able to be changed,” it reads.

“Creating legislation is a slow process but be assured that this issue is very much on Rep. James’ radar.”

The message came in response to a Change.org petition launched by local Chippewa Falls resident Eric Henry after Lily’s body was found in a wooded area close to a walking trail on Monday morning.

The fourth-grade student was reported missing by her father at around 9pm on Sunday night when she failed to return home from her aunt’s house – a six-minute walk or two-minute bike ride away.

A search was launched to track down the missing child and her bike was found along the wooded trail later that night.

At around 9.15am on Monday, Lily was found dead close to the trail. She had been sexually assaulted, strangled and suffered blunt force trauma.

No Amber Alert had been issued for the 10-year-old.

In an initial media release prior to her body being found, Chippewa Falls Police Department said that her disappearance did not meet the criteria for issuing an alert.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, there are three criteria that must be met for an Amber Alert to be issued in the state.

These are: that the child must be 17 years of age or younger; that the initiating agency must have enough descriptive information about the child, the suspect and/or the suspect vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast alert will help locate the child; and that the child must be in danger of serious bodily harm or death.

It appears that there was not enough information at the time of Lily’s disappearance to satisfy the last criteria.

Lily Peters was found dead on Monday morning in a wooded area not far from her home

In the Change.org petition, Mr Henry said there is a need to be “more proactive” when a child goes missing, saying “we need something more”.

“An amber alert was never sent due to the rules around what constitutes its use. 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,” it reads.

“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.”

The Change.org has now reached more than 69,000 signatures and counting as of Friday morning.

It is one of the fastest-growing petitions on the platform.

Preliminary autopsy findings released on Thursday revealed that Lily suffered strangulation and blunt force trauma, with her death being ruled a homicide.

Chippewa County Coroner Ron Patten told The Independent on Thursday that he expects the full autopsy including additional testing to be completed in around six weeks’ time as officials want to be “very thorough” with the investigation into her murder.

The preliminary autopsy findings support the version of events presented in court on Wednesday, where a 14-year-old boy was charged with Lily’s murder after allegedly confessing to punching and strangling the 10-year-old to death before sexually assaulting her.

Prosecutors said the suspect allegedly left Lily’s aunt’s house together with the 10-year-old and led her along a nearby walking trail through a wooded area.

As they went along the trail, the suspect allegedly punched Lily in the stomach, knocked her to the ground, hit her with a stick and strangled her “to the point of death”.

A police command center in the parking lot of the Leinenkugel’s brewery close to where Lily’s body was found

He then sexually assaulted the 10-year-old child, prosecutors said.

The teenager allegedly confessed to law enforcement that he had planned to kill and rape his victim.

The eighth-grade student has been charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree sexual asssualt, and first-degree sexual asssualt of a child under age 13 resulting in great bodily harm.

The teenager, who knew his victim and is being referred to only by his initials C P-B, appeared in court for the first time for a hearing on Wednesday afternoon where a judge ordered him to be held on $1m cash bond.

If convicted as an adult, C B-P faces up to life in prison on the charges.

Chippewa Falls Police arrested the teenager on Tuesday evening after carrying out a search warrant at Lily’s aunt’s home, where the 10-year-old was last seen alive.

Based on the alleged killer’s own statements to police, prosecutors said they now know that Lily and the suspect left the home together and headed along the trail.

Officials are refusing to confirm if the suspect also lives at the address or if he is related to Lily and, due to his name, the court has ordered that his identity be protected for now.

However, police said that Lily knew her killer and that there is no longer any danger to the community following his arrest.

The suspect is next scheduled to appear in court at 3.30pm on 5 May for a hearing to decide on defence counsel to represent him in the case moving forward.

An Amber Alert is an emergency child abduction alert sent out to the public as soon as possible after a child goes missing.

It provides information about the child and the abduction such as the child’s description so that members of the public with any information can submit tips.

The alert system was first launched following the abduction and murder of nine-year-old Amber Rene Hagerman in Texas in 1996.

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