Missing Utah Girl

This Saturday, May 25, 2019, booking photo provided by Cache County Sheriff's Office shows Alex Whipple. The search for a missing 5-year-old girl has stretched into a fourth day in Utah, with police saying Tuesday, May 28 that Whipple, her uncle, is the suspect in her disappearance. Whipple was arrested Saturday and is being held on an unrelated charge.

LOGAN — A Providence man being held on suspicion of abducting and killing 5-year-old Logan girl Elizabeth Shelley was charged Wednesday with aggravated murder.

Alexander William Whipple, 21, was charged with one count of aggravated murder, which normally could carry a potential death sentence if Whipple is convicted, along with other felony charges.

However, late Wednesday Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen said during a press conference that Whipple and his attorney exchanged information with investigators that took a potential death sentence off the table. The information ultimately led to police finding what they believe to be the body of 5-year-old Elizabeth.

Whipple is also charged with one count of child kidnapping, a first-degree felony; two counts of obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony; and one count of abuse or desecration of a human body, a third-degree felony.

Elizabeth was reported missing from her Logan home around 9:30 a.m. Saturday, when her mother told police that she and her relative, Whipple, were gone from the home. Her mother told police Elizabeth was last seen in the home around 1 a.m. earlier that day. She also said that Elizabeth was wearing a teal skirt and a red tank top when she was last seen.

Around 3 p.m. the same day, Whipple was arrested near Hyrum in rural Cache County. During an interview with police, they allegedly found what seemed to be dried blood on Whipple’s clothing. When left alone in an interview room without handcuffs, Whipple allegedly tried to lick his hands, apparently in the effort to wipe his hands clean.

Whipple reportedly avoided answering questions from police, but later said alcohol makes him “black out” and sometimes he does “criminal things,” but did not elaborate on his statements, according to the affidavit. Police also took a DNA swab from Whipple.

Later, investigators found a broken knife with what seemed to be blood on the blade. The knife was the same brand of knives located in Elizabeth’s home, and one knife appeared to be missing from a knife block in the home. Near where the knife was found, in a parking lot of the Bear River Charter School, police also found a PVC pipe with what appeared to be blood on it.

Police also found a teal skirt that was “hastily buried” in some dirt, which appeared to have blood on it.

Investigators took DNA from Elizabeth’s toothbrush and compared the DNA profile to the DNA profile found within the blood found on the knife.

Police reported the two DNA profiles were a match. The dried blood found on Whipple’s watch and his sweatshirt allegedly matched Elizabeth’s DNA profile. Police also allege that a partial palm print belonging to Whipple was found on the PVC pipe in blood.

Noted in charging documents, which were filed in court Wednesday morning before Elizabeth’s body was found, is the fact that police had at the time yet to find Elizabeth’s body, but both police and the Cache County Attorney’s Office believed there was enough evidence to charge Whipple with aggravated murder.

During a press conference late Wednesday afternoon, Jensen told reporters that the child’s body was found around 2 p.m. in a heavily overgrown wooded area roughly a half a block away from Elizabeth’s home.

Jensen said it was the break police had been hoping for, but was ultimately not how they wanted this situation to conclude. Jensen did not specify how Elizabeth died, and left the determination to the office of the state medical examiner.

He added that police had searched the area where the child’s body was found, but did not locate the child’s remains. Jensen described the area as heavily wooded, saying it was “hard to believe” the child’s remains were undetected despite officials previously searching the area.

Jensen said that prosecutors at the Cache County Attorney’s Office were people of their word, and will not pursue the death penalty against Whipple.

“Our most important interest was bringing Lizzy home,” Jensen said.

During the same press conference, Jill Parker, a spokesperson for Elizabeth’s mother, shared a letter that the girl’s mother wrote to the public.

“There are not words to express the sadness and the heartbreak we feel today,” Parker said. “This did not end how we wanted it to. But in this sadness, we are comforted that so many people put forth so much effort to help us find Lizzy.”

Whipple is being held at the Cache County Jail without bail.

His initial appearance in court for the new charges against him is scheduled to take place in the afternoon of June 3 in Logan’s 1st District Court.

Jacob Scholl is the Cops and Courts Reporter for the Standard-Examiner. Email him at jscholl@standard.net and follow him on Twitter at @Jacob_Scholl.

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