Uncle of Missing Utah 5-Year-Old Charged With Murder as Police Find Girl's Body
A missing 5-year-old Utah girl’s body has been located after her uncle who was charged Wednesday with her kidnapping and murder told authorities where to find it, the man’s attorney tells PEOPLE.
“He knows he’s involved in a very, very serious matter,” says Shannon Demler, the defense attorney for accused suspect Alex Whipple. “After I met with him for a few hours, he decided it would be best for everyone involved if he told the authorities the location of the body.”
Demler declined to elaborate further, or indicate how the 21-year-old Whipple would plead to the charge in the alleged murder of his niece, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley, who was reported missing from her family’s Logan City home Saturday morning.
“We’ve been negotiating with the county attorney’s office to resolve the matter,” he says. “We haven’t made a decision on how it’s all going to proceed at this point.”
Authorities announced the charges against Whipple at a news conference Wednesday before they had discovered the girl’s body. He was accused of aggravated murder, child kidnapping, obstruction of justice, and desecration of a body.
Logan City Police Chief Gary Jensen revealed at the news conference that authorities had uncovered various new pieces of evidence, including a broken knife with blood on it that allegedly matched a knife missing from Shelley’s home. They also found a teal skirt with blood on it; Whipple’s wristwatch and sweatshirt also allegedly had blood on them matching Shelley’s blood, he said.
Additionally, Jensen stated that they’d found a PVC pipe bearing a palm print that allegedly matched Whipple’s print.
Prior to the defense attorney’s confirmation to PEOPLE that the body had been located, Jill Parker of the Cache County Attorney’s Office released a statement Wednesday on behalf of the girl’s family stating: “As a family we are overwhelmed, scared and sad at the recent tragic events that have touched our lives.”
Shelley was reported missing Saturday after family members awoke around 9 a.m. to find her and Whipple, who’d arrived unexpectedly the night before, both gone from her Logan City home. She was last seen in the home around 2 a.m.
Police later encountered Whipple, who was on foot, around 3 p.m. Saturday about 10 miles away in a rural area of Cache County. He failed to identify himself to officers and had an outstanding warrant for his arrest for not checking in with probation officers. He was also in possession of drug paraphernalia, according to authorities.
Whipple’s criminal past includes a 2016 assault conviction involving domestic violence, and he was on probation for a 2017 conviction for drug possession and a separate 2017 case where he pleaded guilty after leading police on a chase in a stolen vehicle, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.
On Saturday, Whipple was arrested on the probation violation and booked into the Cache County jail. On Tuesday, he was ordered held without bail over the objection of his defense attorney, reports The Herald Journal.
Police Captain Tyson Budge previously told PEOPLE: “We have items involved in this incident that we can forensically link to (Whipple) and her from the residence, and also evidence off of him we can link to her.”
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When he was found on Saturday by police, Whipple lied about his whereabouts and was uncooperative with authorities, said Budge. “He said he left around sunrise,” he said. “We don’t have any reason to believe anything he told us. His story changed quite a bit.”
The search by local, state and federal agencies proved a challenge before they were told exactly where to look. “She is a 40-pound little teeny girl and it is difficult,” Budge said before the body was located. “There is a lot of space to search. … He had a lot of hours alone and a lot of space alone.”
On Tuesday, police had shared additional images of Whipple on social media and sought the public’s help to track his movements.
“These are photos of Alex Whipple and his clothing on Friday May 24,” according to a Facebook post from the department. “We hope this helps you as you are checking your cameras and smart doorbell systems. If you have video footage please report it to dispatch at 435-753-7555.”