Police have confirmed that human remains found hidden under a tree in Utah belong to a missing five-year-old girl who was taken from her home and allegedly murdered by her uncle.
The body of Elizabeth ‘Lizzy’ Shelley was found on Wednesday less than a block from her home in Salt Lake City after her 21-year-old uncle Alex Whipple led police to the dirt-covered body.
Authorities only confirmed the little girl’s identity on Thursday afternoon.
Her body was found hidden under trees and brush heavily wooded area less than a block from her home five days after she went missing. Crews had previously searched the area where the body was buried but didn’t find her.
The discovery came hours after Whipple was charged with murder and other counts. Lizzy was the daughter of Whipple’s younger sister Jessica.
He provided the map in exchange for prosecutors taking the death penalty off the table, Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen said.
The body of Elizabeth ‘Lizzy’ Shelley was found on Wednesday less than a block from her home in Salt Lake City after her 21-year-old uncle Alex Whipple led police to the dirt-covered body
The little girl’s body was found hidden under trees and brush just yards from her home five days after she went missing
Police have revealed that Whipple had dried blood-colored stains on his pants when he was arrested last Saturday over Lizzy’s disappearance.
When left alone in an interview room without handcuffs, Whipple allegedly tried to lick clean his ‘filthy’ and cut fingers.
Whipple hadn’t previously acknowledged involvement in his niece’s disappearance, but did tell police during questioning that alcohol makes him “black out” and sometimes do ‘criminal things’.
He alluded frequently to ‘how evil the world we live in is,’ as he talked about his struggles as a child, according to court documents.
Following the grim discovery of the body, Whipple’s grandfather, Bill Whipple, revealed that the murder suspect had a difficult childhood but had never showed violent tendencies.
‘I would never, ever in a million years have thought he was capable of harming such a cute little girl,’ the elder Whipple said.
‘I knew he was a thief but I never labeled him as a murderer.’
Whipple’s mother walked out on the family when he was young, leaving his father to raise three children alone while he worked as a truck driver. As a teenager, Whipple spent time in foster homes and did not graduate from high school.
Whipple’s defense attorney, Shannon Demler, described his client as ‘very emotional’ and ‘not in a very good mental state.’
‘He’s very broken down,’ Demler told Fox 13 Now. ‘He’s very remorseful.’
Lizzy’s body was found hidden under trees and brush heavily wooded area less than a block from her home five days after she went missing
Police have revealed that Whipple had dried blood-colored stains on his pants when he was arrested last Saturday over Lizzy’s disappearance
The family released this statement through Lizzy’s aunt on Wednesday thanking all the searchers and supporters
Timeline of Elizabeth Shelley disappearance
Evening of May 24: Alexander Whipple arrives at his sister Jessica’s home in Logan to visit.
May 25, 2am: Elizabeth is accounted for as the family goes to sleep.
May 25, 6:46am: Surveillance footage shows a man that appears to be Whipple walking alone two blocks from the house. The man’s pants appear wet or muddy from the knees down.
9am: Family members awake to find both Elizabeth and Whipple gone.
1.30pm: Whipple is spotted on foot at the Shortstop convenience store in Hyrum, about eight miles south from the home.
He is alone and a clerk says he looks disheveled as if he’s on a binge. He buys beer and cigarettes.
3pm: Cache County Sheriff’s deputies locate and arrest Whipple in southern Cache Valley, 10 miles from the home.
May 29, 11:50am: Whipple is charged with aggravated murder, child kidnapping and other counts
5pm: Police say they have found a body believed to be Lizzy in a heavily wooded area less than a block from her home
Demler said Whipple did not provide a motive for what he described as the man’s ‘inexcusable’ act against his niece and speculated that mental illness could be to blame.
‘I don’t know if there’s a reason why other than possibly mental illness,’ the lawyer said.
‘You know, it’s not like a five-year-old girl would do something that would justify someone doing this to her, but I think the answer is going to be in the mental illness of my client.’
Demler said he expects Whipple to undergo multiple psychiatric evaluations as his case winds through the court system.
A family spokesman read a statement from Lizzy’s mother Jessica, thanking the local community for their help in looking for her ‘caring and giving’ daughter.
‘There are no words to express the sadness and the heartbreak we feel today. This did not end the way we wanted it to but in the sadness we are comforted by the effort people put in to find Lizzy.
‘We would never have expected this outpouring of love and support. It was beautiful.’
Whipple’s attorney said the breakthrough in the search for Lizzy came after he presented his client with the facts and evidence.
‘My client made the decision to disclose the location of the body to the authorities so the family, hopefully, could have some closure on that part of the case,’ Demler said.
Police had earlier revealed that the little girl’s blood was found on a watch and a hooded sweatshirt belonging to Whipple.
The teal blue skirt Lizzy was last seen wearing was also recovered after being ‘hastily buried’ under bark and dirt near the family home.
A woman is pictured playing a candle onto a memorial following a vigil for the five-year-old on Monday
Police were provided with surveillance footage from near the family’s home that is believed to have captured Whipple. The video taken about two blocks from the home, showed a man in a gray hoodie walking alone
Prosecutors said they also recovered a broken LivingKit kitchen knife with the girl’s blood on it, matching a blade that had gone missing from the family home.
Investigators also found a piece of PVC pipe 50 yards away in the parking lot of Bear River Charter School with a partial palm print in a red substance believed to be blood. The find matched Whipple’s hand, according to the charges.
Whipple was charged with aggravated murder, which is a capital offense.
He was also charged with child kidnapping, a first-degree felony, desecration of a human body, a third-degree felony and two counts of obstruction of justice.
A Zions Bank account was opened under the name Elizabeth Shelley Donation to collect funds as the family searches for Lizzy, the Cache County Attorney’s office said Wednesday.
Investigators had been searching for the girl since Saturday morning. Lizzy was reported missing after her family woke up after 9am and the youngster and Whipple were nowhere to be found.
The girl was last seen before family members went to bed about 2am and Whipple was staying at the house that night, despite not living there.
Searchers (pictured Tuesday) scour the area for the missing child and Shelley’s skirt was found ‘hastily buried’ under dirt on the grounds of a charter school near her home
Searchers (pictured Tuesday) also found the child’s blood on a broken knife missing from the Utah family’s kitchen. Whipple’s hand print was also on a PVC pole discovered
Dark details have emerged of Whipple, a convicted felon, appearing disheveled as if he had ‘been in a binge’ the night of Elizabeth’s disappearance.
Around 1.30pm on Saturday, Whipple stopped in a gas station in Hyrum alone where he purchased beer and cigarettes.
‘Disheveled, like he had been on a binge of some kind,’ Hyrum Shortstop employee Ryan Liljenquist told KSTU-TV.
‘He was wearing a gray hoodie. Underneath that hoodie, was a kind of a suit and tie, something really weird.’
Police were provided with surveillance footage from near the family’s home that is believed to have captured Whipple.
The video, taken at 6.46am on Saturday about two blocks from the home, showed a man in a gray hoodie walking alone. His pants appeared to be wet or muddy from the knees down.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Whipple had a metal baseball bat shoved in his back pocket and hidden under his jacket when he was arrested.
Alexander Whipple pictured above in images on Facebook. He was arrested on Saturday, found in a remote area about 10 miles from the family home where Elizabeth disappeared
Whipple is pictured on a surveillance camera on Friday May 24 before Shelley went missing
Elizabeth’s mother, Jessica Whipple (left) and father Wes Shelley (right), who are separated, both made appeals for the girl’s safe return before her body was discovered
He was found on Saturday afternoon in a remote area about 10 miles from the family’s home several hours after the girl was reported missing.
Whipple reportedly had some of the girl’s clothing in his hands.
He was combative and refused to identify himself several times when police spotted him walking in a remote area, according to court documents.
He was booked into Cache County Jail on Sunday for investigation of probation violations, failure to identify himself to police and possession of a controlled substance.
He was denied bail Tuesday during a court hearing in Logan in which he appeared via video in a dark blue jail uniform with his back slumped and his eyes cast downward. Whipple’s next hearing is June 3.
In 2016, Whipple was convicted of assaulting his roommate in an incident of domestic violence, according to court records.
The same year, Whipple was arrested after police said he stole his neighbor’s car and drove under the influence of alcohol. In that incident he led Utah High Patrol on a 40-mile chase that ended with authorities spiking the tires of the car, court documents show.
Whipple was sentenced to prison in March 2018 but his term was suspended, and he was instead ordered to serve 180 days in jail and five years of probation.