Authorities in Utah found what they believe to be the body of a missing 5-year-old girl after they say her uncle and alleged killer told them the location in an effort to avoid the death penalty.
Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley, 5, was last seen at her home in Logan at around 2 a.m. on Saturday, according to the Logan City Police Department. She was discovered to be missing eight hours later. Her uncle, 21-year-old Alex Whipple, was believed to have been with her when she vanished. He was soon described by police as “the main suspect.”
By Wednesday, Whipple was charged with her murder after police found a girl's body. The body has not yet been officially confirmed to be Shelley's.
“He knows he’s involved in a very, very serious matter,” Shannon Demler, the defense attorney for Whipple, told PEOPLE. “After I met with him for a few hours, he decided it would be best for everyone involved if he told the authorities the location of the body.”
The body, believed to be the child, was found less than a block from the home where Shelley lived, hidden under trees and brush, Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen said at a press conference held on Wednesday. Search crews previously were within feet of the body, but hadn't located her, KUTV in Salt Lake City reports.
Jensen choked up, 96 hours after the girl went missing, as he read the charges against Whipple: aggravated murder, child kidnapping, obstruction of justice and desecration of a human body.
He explained that Whipple provided a map to find the child in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table.
“At this point the family is trying to deal with this information,” he said.
Before her body was located, police confirmed in a press conference Wednesday they believed Shelley was dead based off new evidence, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Authorities allegedly found a broken knife with blood on it that matched a knife missing from Shelley's home, a teal skirt with blood on it matching the description of the skirt Shelley was last seen in, and Whipple’s wristwatch and sweatshirt, which also allegedly had blood on them matching Shelley's blood. He had blood-colored stains on his pants as well as hands that were reportedly "filthy," CBS News reports. He allegedly tried to lick his hands clean.
Additionally, Jensen said a pipe was found on Whipple, allegedly used for narcotics, with a bloody palm print on it which police believe belongs to Whipple. Jensen said that he believes he moved the body and tried to conceal it. A possible motive has not been disclosed. Whipple stated that he may have been on drugs at the time of the alleged crime, Jensen said.
Whipple has a criminal past which includes a conviction in 2016 of assault involving domestic violence. He was on probation for a 2017 conviction for drug possession. In another 2017 case, he pleaded guilty to using a stolen vehicle to lead police on a chase, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Whipple is due in court on Monday.
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