CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WCCO) -- Police in a western Wisconsin city are telling the community to stay vigilant after the murder of a little girl.
Ten-year-old Iliana Peters, who went by Lily, was found dead by police at about 9:15 a.m. Monday in a wooded area near the Leinenkugel Brewery in Chippewa Falls, which is 90 miles east of the Twin Cities.
She was last seen by family members at her aunt's house on the 400 block of North Grove Street. She was supposed to be heading to her home on the 50 block of East Birch Street. Police, the Chippewa County Sheriff's Office's K9 unit and a drone pilot all assisted in searching the area Sunday night and Monday morning to find her. Officers say evidence at the scene indicated it was a murder.
Neighbors say the path through the woods where she was found is used all the time by kids on bikes and people exercising or taking a walk. Before the tragic discovery, police had only located her bicycle near the walking trail.
Police Chief Matthew Kelm says there are no suspects at this time, but his department is following up on multiple leads. He is telling the public to remain vigilant, as the person responsible may be a danger to the public.
In a display of tight-knit community, dozens of people attended a prayer vigil for Peters Monday night at Valley Vineyard Church, where Michael Houle is pastor.
"Giving people a space to pray and just connect and just kind of grieve together. It's a spot just to be able to grieve," Houle said. "Grief is hard alone. It's a lot better done in community."
Houle is reacting to Peters' death like many others are, in Chippewa Falls and beyond.
"I'm a parent and it hit hard. Disbelief, shock," he said.
Jeremy Machnik's kids went to school with Peters, and he says they would play outside on the street near the trail.
"I see her and her cousins all the time, either biking, rollerblading on a hoverboard, going up and down the street. They sled in the back hill of our yard, and she's always happy, always happy, even if it's 15 degrees and snowing out, I see them bundled up with their sleds coming down the street when it's snowing out. They were always outside, always playing, always happy," Machnik said. "It's very traumatic, and it's very sad. It's very sad that it happened here. This is a great neighborhood.
Peters was a fourth grader at Parkview Elementary School. Officials there said school went on as normal Monday. They were letting families decide how to share with their kids, but the staff will have a meeting about how to handle things Tuesday.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call 1-800-263-5906.
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