LOGAN — Police located the body Wednesday afternoon, believed to be of 5-year-old Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley, who has been missing since early Saturday morning. The girl’s remains were found behind a house near 465 West 100 South, a half-block from Shelley’s home. The body was discovered, five days after she was believed to have been killed by her uncle, 21-year-old Alexander “Alex” Whipple.
During a press conference, Logan City Police Chief Gary Jensen explained that late Wednesday morning, Whipple provided officers a map, as part of a negotiation between prosecutors and Whipple’s public defender, Shannon Demler. The map led searchers to an area where they found the body, believed to be Shelley’s.
“This is obviously the break that we had been waiting for,” Jensen said. “This is the moment that we had hoped would come. Certainly it’s not the way we wanted it to happen, we certainly would have wanted to bring Lizzy home. Never the less, this is closure and it helps us be able to now deal with the investigation and help the family through their grief.”
The negotiation that attorney’s worked out, removed the death penalty from the case that prosecutor’s had filed earlier in the day, which included aggravated murder and other charges. The deal was only for information about the body’s location, and not a plea agreement, for Whipple to plead guilty.
Jensen described that Whipple’s map led officers to an area that had been searched multiple times. The body was found buried underneath sticks, leaves and other debris, between a cinder-block shed and a chain-link fence.
“It’s a wooded area. It’s a very, very overgrown area. It’s hard to believe that we have been through that area and were unable to find her.”
Police K-9s had detected something in the same area during previous searches and officers had found several pieces of evidence nearby. It turns out that searchers might have misunderstood what the dogs were smelling.
Officers blocked Center Street and 100 South, between 400 and 500 West to all traffic for several hours, while crews recovered the body. The remains were turned over to the State Medical Examiner’s Office, to conduct a positive ID and determine the exact cause of death.
Jensen said even though police have found what they believe to be is Shelley’s body, their investigation isn’t over. Officers will continue to search and try to determine Whipple’s motive.
“This isn’t over with. The investigation is ongoing. We still have a lot of things to sift through, a lot of investigation to do with the coroner’s office, the state crime lab, even potentially interviews with Alex.”
According to charging documents, Shelley’s mother, Jessica Whipple, called police Saturday at 9:30 a.m., after she woke up and found the front door of her home wide open, and her daughter and Whipple missing. She claimed that she had invited the suspect over Friday night, to play video games and drink alcohol with her and her live-in boyfriend, Detrich Black. The couple explained that Whipple was invited to sleep on the couch that night, after they went to bed around mid-night. They claimed Shelley was last seen asleep in her bedroom, wearing a teal skirt with white lace and a red tank-top with a “Fourth of July” theme.
Multiple law enforcement agencies along with the Federal Bureau of Investigations started searching for both individuals. They later found Whipple Saturday afternoon, walking alone near Mt. Sterling, more than 10-miles away from Shelley’s home. They also discovered a broken knife that had the victim’s DNA on it, a PVC pipe with the suspect’s palm print on it and the skirt, she was last seen wearing.
Police report Whipple’s wristwatch and sweatshirt contained blood that matched Shelley’s DNA. Later while at police headquarters, waiting to be interviewed, he was seen licking his hands and trying to wipe them clean. He told investigators that “alcohol makes him black out and sometimes he does criminal things.”
During Wednesday’s press conference, Jill Parker read a statement from Jessica Whipple. She said there aren’t words to express the sadness and heartbreak they feel.
“In this sadness we are comforted that so many people put forth so much effort to help us find Lizzy,” read Parker. “You made the difference and we are so very thankful. We would never have expected this outpouring of help and support, we could not have gone through this by ourselves. We were able to feel the love of so many people most who we never met.”
Whipple remains in jail after a judge Tuesday ordered that he be held without bail. He is scheduled to appear again in court June 3. In addition to aggravated murder, he is charged with child kidnapping, a second-degree felony; two counts of obstructing justice and abuse or desecration of a body, a third-degree felony. He could face up to life in prison if convicted.
The Cache County Attorney Victim’s Advocates has set up a donation account for the Shelley family. It is at Zions Bank under the account name: Elizabeth Shelley Donation.