Chippewa County Coroner Ron Patten tells The Independent that preliminary autopsy findings confirmed that the 10-year-old’s death was a homicide and that she suffered strangulation and blunt force trauma
Murdered schoolgirl Lily Peters suffered blunt force trauma and strangulation when she was attacked and sexually assaulted by her teenage killer, according to a preliminary autopsy.
Chippewa County Coroner Ron Patten told The Independent on Thursday that preliminary autopsy findings had confirmed that the 10-year-old’s death was a homicide and that she was strangled and suffered blunt force trauma in the attack.
The coroner said that he does not expect to release the preliminary report in full and instead plans to wait to release the full autopsy report when it is completed in around six weeks’ time.
He said that the full autopsy includes additional testing as officials want to be “very thorough” with the investigation into the fourth-grade student’s shock murder.
The preliminary 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.
The teenager, who was 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 order him to be held on $1m bond.
Prosecutors told the court how the teenager confessed to law enforcement that “his intention was to rape and kill the victim from the get-go when he left the house with the victim going down the trail”.
After going along the walking 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”.
He then sexually assaulted the 10-year-old child. Lily’s body was discovered on Monday morning in a wooded area close to the trail, after she was reported missing by her father the night before.
The 14-year-old suspect, who knew his victim, 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.
Because of Wisconsin law – which stipulates that first-degree homicide charges must first be brought in adult court if the suspect is aged 10 or older – Mr C B-P is currently being charged in adult court.
However the case could later be transferred to juvenile court.
Chippewa County DA Wade Newell said in a press conference after the court hearing on Wednesday afternoon that it would be “premature” to speculate whether or not the prosecution plans to continue to try the suspect in adult court though he added that it is a “very serious case”.
If convicted as an adult, Mr C B-P faces up to life in prison on the charges.
In Wednesday’s court appearance, prosecutors asked the judge to set the suspect’s bond at $1m cash.
They said that the high cash bond was necessary because of the severity of the case which created a “need to protect the community” and also raised concerns that the suspect could be a flight risk.
The defence argued that, as a 14-year-old eighth-grade student who has lived in Chippewa Falls with his mother his whole life, the suspect could not be a flight risk.
The judge agreed with the prosecution, setting $1m cash bond and ordering the suspect to have no contact with juveniles and no access to dangerous weapons if he is released.
The judge said that he would allow the suspect to have contact with his siblings as long as any such visits are supervised.
Due to the alleged killer’s age, the court ordered that the suspect can only be referred to by his initials and that neither the defendant nor the victim’s family may be filmed during court proceedings. The criminal complaint and search warrants have also been sealed by the judge.
Mr C B-P 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.
Chippewa Falls Police arrested the suspect on Tuesday evening after carrying out a search warrant at Lily’s aunt’s home, where the 10-year-old was last seen alive.
DA Newell confirmed on Wednesday that, based on the alleged killer’s own statements to police, Lily and the suspect left the home together and headed along the trail before the 14-year-old sexually assaulted and murdered the 10-year-old.
During the early stages of the investigation, police said that Lily had left her aunt’s house on North Grove Street on Sunday to head home to her address on East Birch Street. The two homes are a roughly six-minute walk from each other.
Lily never made it home that night and her father reported her missing to police at around 9pm.
A search was launched to track down the missing child and her bike was found along the wooded trail that night.
On Monday morning, at around 9.15am, first responders then found Lily’s body in a nearby wooded area close to the walking trail by the Leinenkugel Brewing Company.
At a press conference announcing the arrest on Tuesday evening, Police Chief Matthew Kelm said that a search warrant was executed at a home on North Grove Street earlier that evening.
The Chippewa County Sheriff set up a mobile command centre in the parking lot of the Leinenkugel’s brewery
Evidence was collected from the property and interviews were carried out, before the suspect was taken into custody, he said.
Records show that the address on North Grove Street where the search was executed is the home of Lily’s aunt.
Officials would not confirm if the suspect also lives at the address or if he is related to Lily.
However, the police chief said that Lily knew her killer and that there was no longer any danger to the community following the suspect’s arrest.
Before the suspect was taken into custody on Tuesday evening, police had warned the local community to remain vigilant as the killer was still at large.
Parents were urged not to let their children walk to and from school and there was a heavy police presence at local schools, particularly at pick-up and drop-off times.
Following the arrest, Chief Kelm said he was “confident that there is no danger to the community”.
On Wednesday, the Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District (CFAUSD) lifted its recommendation that children do not walk to and from school alone.