Uncle of missing Utah girl, 5, charged with murder

The uncle of a missing Utah 5-year-old girl was charged with her murder Wednesday.

At a news conference Wednesday, Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen told reporters that 21-year-old Alex Whipple had been charged with aggravated murder, child kidnapping, obstruction of justice and desecration of a human body.

Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley was reported missing Saturday morning. Her body has not been found, but Jensen said investigators had evidence, including DNA, linking Whipple to the girl's murder. The desecration charge stems from alleged actions by Whipple to move, remove or conceal Lizzy's body.

(Logan City Police)

According to the chief, traces of Lizzy's blood were found on Whipple's watch and sweatshirt, as well as on a knife consistent with one that was reported missing from the Shelley family home. Jensen added that the knife was broken, in a manner "which is indicative of dramatic use."

Jensen added that investigators also found a PVC pipe covered in blood and a teal skirt with white lace that was buried under dirt and bark and was "consistent with one that was described that belonged to Lizzy.”

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Logan City Police said Whipple has been “uncooperative” throughout their investigation. He was initially arrested Saturday on a probation violation and has been held without bail since.

Searchers look for signs of Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Logan, Utah. DNA has provided further evidence that the 21-year-old uncle of missing 5-year-old Shelley is behind her disappearance, police said Tuesday.

Searchers look for signs of Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Logan, Utah. DNA has provided further evidence that the 21-year-old uncle of missing 5-year-old Shelley is behind her disappearance, police said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Police said they were initially called at around 10 a.m. Saturday for a report of a missing 5-year-old. They said family members claimed that  Whipple showed up to the home on Friday evening and they were all in the house at 2 a.m. Police said when the family woke up the next morning, they couldn’t find Shelley -- and Whipple was no longer in the home.

Whipple was found in a rural area around 10 miles from the Shelley home. Police said he was combative and was in possession of drug paraphernalia. Whipple also allegedly “failed to identify himself and had a warrant for his arrest for not checking in with probation for his recent charges of receiving stolen property and driving under the influence.”

Logan City Police said that when Whipple was interviewed by detectives he “made several inconsistent statements at the very beginning and lied about his whereabouts which were already known.”

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During the interview, police told Whipple they believed he was responsible for Shelley’s disappearance. “Alexander did not admit he was responsible but also never denied he was responsible,” according to court documents, which also stated that during the interview he “would elude [sic] to how evil the world we live in is.”

Whipple also said he was drinking alcohol the night before Shelley’s disappearance and during the interview stated that “alcohol makes him ‘black out’ and sometimes he does ‘criminal things’ when he blacks out,” according to the criminal complaint, which stated that he “would not elaborate to what these ‘criminal things’ were.”

Court documents revealed that while Whipple was interviewed, a detective noticed “dark colored stains on his pants that appeared to be consistent with dried blood.”

Smithfield Police Officer Adam Roper look for signs of Elizabeth Shelley on Tuesday, May, 28, 2019 in Logan, Utah. 

Smithfield Police Officer Adam Roper look for signs of Elizabeth Shelley on Tuesday, May, 28, 2019 in Logan, Utah.  (Eli Lucero/Herald Journal via AP)

Police said Wednesday that they are still working very hard to locate Shelley, adding that about 20 officers combed through a mountain of garbage in an effort to find her. Jensen said dive teams also searched through various bodies of water including the Logan River.

The ongoing search has been concentrated on a one-half mile area around the family's home in Logan, in a picturesque mountain valley near the Idaho border about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City.

“We want to find her we want the family to have what they deserve and that’s closure,” Jensen said on Wednesday.

He added, “We are all living this together and we are doing the best we can to bring this to a close in the best fashion possible.”

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When asked about a potential motive Jensen answered, “We don’t understand at this point where that might be.”

Whipple has a criminal record that includes an assault involving domestic violence, possession of a stolen vehicle and drug-related charges.