In a horrific act of violence, three young sisters were raped and murdered in India, police told reporters Tuesday.
The bodies of the girls, who went missing on Feb. 14, were discovered two days later in a well near their native village in Maharashtra's Bhandara district.
According to the Press Trust of India, the deaths of the three girls -- ages 11, 9 and 6 -- sparked an outcry from locals, who staged a protest in the streets Tuesday.
Though their deaths were initially thought to be accidental, post-mortem reports revealed that the girls suffered sexual abuse and were, in fact, killed.
Indian Broadcaster NDTV reports that villagers say police "got serious about the investigation" only after locals took to the streets in protest.
Four people have been detained for questioning in the matter, but no arrests have been made, according to the Agence France-Presse. Police are still seeking a motive in the case.
"The girls' mother believes the involvement of an acquaintance in the crime, but we are not sure," Bhandara police chief Aarti Singh told the BBC.
Lakhni Police Chief Prakash Munde, who has been suspended for dereliction of duty, is also being investigated for his association in the matter, the Tamil News Network reports.
The three young sisters, who lived with their mother, went missing after school on Feb. 14. Their bodies, along with their school bags, were found in a well about 3 kilometers from their home.
"The incident is extremely deplorable and painful," Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said in a statement. "I appeal to the people to maintain calm and cooperate with the law-enforcers."
The grisly deaths of the three pre-adolescent girls comes just two months after the Dec. 16 gang rape of a 23-year-old on a moving bus in New Delhi.
The highly publicized Delhi rape case has incited protests around the world. Earlier this month, India's President Pranab Mukherjee approved stricter punishments in rape cases. Though the laws must be approved by the country's parliament, some women's groups have already spoken out against the legislation, claiming that the measures do not go far enough.
CORRECTION: A previous headline misstated the ages of the girls.