LOGAN, Utah — Police in Utah are working to locate the body of missing 5-year-old Elizabeth Shelley after DNA tests led to the arrest of the girl's uncle, who has been charged with her murder.
Logan City Police recovered the girl's body in a yard close to her home after receiving a “very credible” tip about the location from the man accused of killing her, 21-year-old Alex Whipple.
Whipple's attorney, Shannon Demler, told KSTU he received the information from Whipple around 1 p.m. Wednesday. Demler then led police to the location Whipple described, which he said was about a quarter mile from the home where Elizabeth had been last seen.
Whipple, Elizabeth's uncle, has been charged with aggravated murder as a capital felony, child kidnapping as a first-degree felony, two counts of obstructing justice as second-degree felonies and one count of desecration of a human body as a third-degree felony.
Authorities said Whipple was invited to his sister and her boyfriend’s home Friday night. Elizabeth was reported missing Saturday morning after her mother discovered she and Whipple were no longer in the home.
Police located Whipple later Saturday and interviewed him. Charging documents state Whipple began “licking his hands and trying to wipe his hands clean” and that he had dark stains on his pants that looked like dried blood.
The document states Whipple initially lied about his whereabouts before admitting to being at the family home. He claimed he left the home alone to go for a walk.
The interviewing officer asked Whipple if he was responsible for taking the girl and, “Alexander did not admit he was responsible but he also never denied he was responsible.”
He also alluded to “how evil the world we live in is” and talked about his struggles as a child and claimed his family mistreated him.
Police searched around the home and located a knife that appeared to have been taken from the family home. The knife was broken and had blood on it.
Investigators also found scraps of Lizzy’s clothing hastily buried under dirt and bark.
Testing revealed that blood matching Elizabeth’s DNA was found on Alex’s watch, his sweatshirt and on the knife.
While Lizzy has not been found, investigators wrote the DNA evidence gives them sufficient reason to believe Whipple murdered the girl. He is charged with desecration of a body because police believe he took substantial steps to hide Elizabeth’s body.
The Cache County Attorney's Office issued a statement Wednesday, saying in part:
"Today is a difficult day, our thoughts continue to be with Lizzy's family. This tragic event has shaken our community. We are touched by the tremendous show of support from so many. We thank all those who have aided and who continue to aid in the search. The Cache County Attorney's Office is committed to fighting for justice. Justice for Lizzy, her family, and our community."
The Justice Center states a donation account has been opened for the family at Zions Bank in the name “Elizabeth Shelley Donation;" they said that’s the only family authorized fundraising account.
If you would like to help the family or donate to the search and rescue crews, the Cache Children’s Justice Center is coordinating the effort. You can reach them at 435-554-1274. Organizers say gift cards for the family are needed.