Chippewa Falls residents have kicked off a petition aiming to streamline the way authorities notify the public about missing children after the shocking slaying of 10-year-old Lily Peters, who was killed Sunday on the way home from her aunt’s house in Wisconsin.
Petitioners noted that there was no Amber Alert for Lily "due to the rules around what constitutes its use."
"We need something more," petition organizer Eric Henry wrote. "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."
Lily’s father reported her missing Sunday night after she failed to return home from her aunt’s house, according to Chippewa Falls police. A search team found her remains the following morning nearby, in a suburban area flanked by parkland and the famous Leinenkugel’s brewery – less than a mile from her home.
Henry told Fox News Digital Thursday that he lived just four blocks away from the crime scene but did not know Lily's family personally.
"I just know that as a father if your child is out of your sight for just a split second, the feeling of helplessness and the dread of not knowing," he said. "We had plenty of information on this girl’s supposed whereabouts to and from, we could’ve easily narrowed it down to a radius. We’re in the day of technology… I don’t see why as soon as the police were contacted the community couldn’t have been contacted."
State Sen. Kathy Bernier, a 23rd District Republican and the petition’s addressee, said in a statement to Fox News Digital that she was "heartbroken" by the crime, confident in Chippewa Falls police handling of the case and looking for more information on the matter before responding to the petition.
"It is impossible to make sense of how something like this could happen," she said. "Many questions remain, including whether a notification system like this would have saved Lily’s life. In consultation with law enforcement, if that turns out to be the case, then I will support changing the law. This is going to be a long process, and we do not have enough information yet. Let’s focus on the first step right now: comforting our loved ones who are affected by this loss."
A missing person case must meet certain federal requirements for an Amber Alert to be issued – requirements which include a "reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred" and the "imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death." The child’s name and other information must also be entered into the National Crime Information Center beforehand.
The petition seeks a much faster method of alerting the public about children who are unaccounted for.
As of Thursday morning, the petition garnered more than 61,000 signatures.
Chippewa Falls police arrested a 14-year-old boy Tuesday in connection with the slaying. Chief Matthew Kelm said the assailant was "not a stranger" and had known Lily.
Police also served a search warrant at the aunt’s home on North Grove Street. Kelm would not comment on whether the suspect was arrested at the same address or related to Lily during his news briefing.
Prosecutors said in court Wednesday that the boy admitted to a heinous attack.
"Protection of [the] community also is necessary in this case given his statements regarding his intentions and his statements regarding that when he did get off the trail, he punched the victim in the stomach, knocked her to the ground, essentially strangled her, hit her with a stick, before strangling her to the point of death -- before he then sexually assaulted her," Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell told the judge at the bond hearing.
Judge Benjamin Lane agreed to prosecutors' request to set bond at $1 million and ordered the defendant to avoid contact with minors, except his siblings, so long as such contact is supervised.
Newell’s office told Fox News Digital the suspect had been charged as an adult. But the defense team has a process to challenge that and potentially have the case moved to juvenile court. The suspect's attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.