LOGAN — When you’re a child, life is simple.
You love rainbows. You pick flowers. You examine ladybugs. You find joy in nearly all things.
Those ideals of a simple time in a person’s life were prominent in an atypical venue Tuesday: a Logan funeral home. Nearly 300 people gathered to honor and remember a life cut short far too soon.
Family, friends and members of the public gathered to mourn the loss of Logan resident Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley. The chapel inside the Nyman Funeral Home was entirely full, with every seat taken and a dozen more standing near doorways. Others filled a spillover room, located in the adjacent room.
Many, if not nearly all, donned multicolored pins in memory of a 5-year-old girl who just loved rainbows.
“Each time we see a rainbow lingering in the sky, I hope we remember the innocence of a child so dear,” said Liesel Black, Lizzy’s aunt. She’s the sister of Detrich Black, whom Lizzy called her dad. “Today we are united in love to live like Lizzy.”
The early afternoon service began with the child’s casket being wheeled into a packed chapel. Her final resting place is white, covered with butterflies: yellow, red, green, blue. The words “Live Like Lizzy” were etched in the top and the side of the casket.
Viewings took place for family, friends and members of the public on Monday night and Tuesday morning. Outside the funeral home, some brought in flowers and others brought pictures; all were quiet and somber, some fighting back tears in their eyes.
The bright, sunny Logan day was in contrast to the dark, mournful mood inside the Nyman Funeral Home on Tuesday.
Dozens made their way in and out of the viewing to pay their final respects to the life of a young child, cut short by violence.
Several speakers, which consisted of friends and family, portrayed Lizzy as an energetic girl who loved nearly everything: bugs, rainbows, her little sister.
Lizzy was patient, according to her aunt Bonnie Black. She was the most patient child she had ever met, and she was the first to report to time out as soon as she was told, Bonnie Black said.
Lizzy was adventurous, maybe even too adventurous, Bonnie said. She nearly rode her scooter down a park slide, her aunt stopping her before she could do so.
“I will never forget the wonder that would fill Lizzy’s eyes,” Bonnie Black said, in reference to her niece’s fascination with bugs.
Jill Parker, who has largely served as the family’s spokesperson since Lizzy’s disappearance, encouraged everyone to find joy in the small, simple moments, much like Lizzy did. She implored those grieving to live like Lizzy, with a heart full of love and happiness.
“I believe that Lizzy will continue to shine down on us from a rainbow,” Parker said.
Lizzy’s mother, Jessica Whipple, described how her daughter would exclaim in awe every time she would see the moon. If she thought her mother didn’t hear her, she would be sure to say it twice, Whipple said.
She said that in the past weeks, she and her fiancé, Detrich Black, have had to be stronger than they ever have been before.
“I was told that one of the hardest things in the world is giving birth,” Whipple said. “But I got to bring home this little angel.”
In her short time with her daughter, Whipple said she fell more and more in love with her daughter as the days went on. When looking back, she said she appreciates all the times she tucked Lizzy into bed, remembering the bright daughter lost.
“I don’t think anyone really prepares for the loss of a child, because its not something you think about,” Whipple said.
She went on to thank the community at large for their efforts, whether it was search and rescue workers looking for Lizzy or people passing encouraging notes to her and her family.
“I’m so grateful she’s back with us,” Whipple said.
Detrich Black, who acted as Lizzy’s father, wore a tie-dye shirt and a black blazer, and remembered the many hikes and walks he experienced with the girl.
“I was so proud to have this sweet little girl look up to me and call me dad,” Black said. “I was so proud to be her father.”
He remembered how Lizzy would sit in the front seat of his car, telling him to stop at every stop sign and calling out to him about each pedestrian. The chapel shared a moment of laughter, remembering an intelligent girl ahead of her time.
He recalled how Lizzy would watch an episode of “Dora The Explorer” on repeat where the young adventurer becomes a big sister. That day happened shortly after Lizzy became a big sister herself.
“I can still feel her hand in mine, I can still feel her weight when I pick her up,” Black said. “I will always love you.”
One speaker and friend at the service was unknown to Jessica and Detrich just weeks ago. Stephanie Tippetts, a nurse at the Cache County Children’s Justice Center, recalled how caring the couple was while police and search personnel scoured the county for the child. She said she wished that all parents she works with would be like Jessica and Detrich, the lights in their eyes bringing her happiness.
“I will learn to love every gift that this life gives me,” Tippetts said. “She will always be with you, and she will send love in ways you don’t expect.”
Logan High School’s Crimson Colony choir sang at two points of the service. One of which was a song originally performed by the Tabernacle Choir, titled “Homeward Bound.”
“In the quiet misty morning, When the moon has gone to bed, When the sparrows stop their singing, I’ll be homeward bound again,” the choir sang, invoking tears for many of those in attendance.
As services concluded, hundreds of motorcycles driven by everyday citizens rumbled down the road to lead Logan Police and others in the funeral procession to Logan Cemetery, where Lizzy will lie in eternity.
For many in the Logan community, the light from Lizzy’s days on earth far outweigh the tragic events that brought her name to the public forefront.
Lizzy’s body was found in the afternoon on Wednesday, May 29, days after police began a county-wide manhunt for the 5-year-old girl. Her body was found in an overgrown area less than a block from her home in Logan.
Her uncle, 21-year-old Alexander William Whipple, was arrested shortly after Lizzy was reported missing. He was being held in jail without bail while investigators searched the city and county for Lizzy. Whipple was charged with aggravated murder on May 30, facing a potential death sentence. However, police say that Whipple and his attorney disclosed where the child’s body was hidden, and in return, the possibility of capital punishment was taken off the table.
The maximum potential sentence for Whipple could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if he is convicted. He is being held at the Cache County Jail without bail, and his next court appearance is scheduled for June 24 in Logan’s 1st District Court.