CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. — A 14-year-old boy accused of the rape and murder of 10-year-old Iliana "Lily" Peters appeared Wednesday before a circuit court judge who ordered him held on $1 million cash bail.
Appearing in court via video from a juvenile detention facility, the defendant — an eighth-grader and a lifelong resident of Chippewa County who lives with his mother — sat quietly next to his attorneys with his head down, wearing a dark shirt.
In arguing for the high bail, District Attorney Wade Newell said the boy told authorities that his intention was to attack Peters "from the get-go" when he left a house with her to walk a trail. The boy told authorities that he punched Peters, hit her with a stick and strangled her "to the point of death" before sexually assaulting her, according to Newell. Her body was found Monday morning just blocks from her aunt's house where she had been visiting, about 12 hours after her father reported that she was missing.
The juvenile suspect is charged with three felonies: first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree sexual assault of a child under 13 resulting in great bodily harm and first-degree sexual assault, Newell said. The first two charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, while the third carries a sentence of up to 60 years, according to Newell.
Defense attorneys asked that bail be set at $100,000, but Newell argued for $1 million, citing the seriousness of the charges and the need to protect the community, as well as the prospect of the defendant trying to flee. Judge Benjamin Lane agreed with the higher amount, saying that "this was a serious threat to the community, and so the court is concerned that this could be a further threat if the individual was no longer in custody."
Attorneys and the judge did not name the suspect or disclose how he knew Peters.
A second hearing was set for May 5.
Peters' body was found in the woods at 9:15 a.m. Monday close to a walking trail at the end of Grove Street, near the Leinenkugel's brewery parking lot, police said. It was in roughly the same area where police earlier said that a bike they believed belonged to the girl had been found.
Peters, a fourth-grader at Parkview Elementary School, lived about four blocks from her aunt's house. Her father notified police about 9 p.m. Sunday that his daughter was missing.
Newell said after the hearing that the defendant and the girl left the aunt's house together. The house was ringed with police tape on Wednesday morning, and a police officer sat nearby.
A security guard at the Leinenkugel's brewery, meanwhile, said the visitors' taproom was closed at least through Wednesday. The employee parking lot had vehicles in it, but a security guard there monitored who came and went. Purple balloons were taped to a bridge nearby, and purple ribbons were strung on the railing of a footbridge.
The girl's family hasn't spoken publicly, but volunteers who spent Tuesday hanging purple ribbons on city lampposts were interrupted at one point by Lily's grandmother, said Teri Ouimette, who organized the ribbon campaign.
"She came down and stopped and thanked the volunteers," Ouimette said, adding that some of the volunteers broke down when the grandmother told them that purple was Lily's favorite color.
"We're not ignorant about tragedy in this town," Ouimette said. "But nothing like this."
Ouimette handed out hundreds of purple ribbons and "Justice for Lily" fliers Tuesday and Wednesday, a step she took as the executive director of Chippewa Falls Main Street Inc., a nonprofit that supports the local business community.
The city's spontaneous reaction to decorate with purple gave people something they could do, Ouimette said.
"It's that feeling of helplessness," she said.
A Chippewa Falls hair salon was giving away purple hair streaks. A candy store gave out free purple taffy. A local hardware store offered 400 purple light bulbs, asking customers to take one each.
At Foreign 5, a bridal shop in downtown Chippewa Falls, the display window mannequins all wore purple dresses.
"We all kind of decided to flood the window with as much purple as we could," said Ava Kenealy, a store employee. She said she and her co-workers had been fearful the day after Lily's body was found, walking each other to their cars so that no one would have to be alone.
Then authorities announced that a boy had been arrested in Lily's death.
"We're just trying to provide support for whoever needs it," Kenealy said.
"We're all still processing it," said Ouimette, who had people coming and going from her downtown office Wednesday for more ribbons.
An elderly woman who came into Ouimette's office to get a "Justice for Lily" flier was on her way out the door when she turned on her heel and approached Ouimette.
"Thanks for what you do," she said, putting her hand on Ouimette's. The two women stood together for a moment, and Ouimette's eyes turned teary.