Evidence ties uncle to missing 5-year-old Utah girl, police say

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LOGAN — Shortly after Logan police launched the search for 5-year-old Elizabeth Shelley on Saturday, they said they found evidence near her residence that linked Alex Whipple, the girl's uncle, to the missing child.

"These items have been forensically tested and they do link Mr. Whipple to our missing child, Elizabeth. They also have evidence that links them to the residence that they were in," Logan Police Capt. Tyson Budge said Monday.

"(It) also links them together outside the home. We have several of these scenes that we have located that have evidentiary items in that we have now tested and have evidence that they were together."

The girl was last seen at 2 a.m. Saturday and was discovered missing from her home on the west side of Logan about 9:30 that morning. Whipple, 21, who had been at the house that night, was also gone.

Whipple, who was on foot, was located by police about 3 p.m. Saturday and taken into custody on unrelated warrants. Whipple has been uncooperative with investigators and is considered a suspect in Elizabeth's disappearance, police said.

Budge said police interviewed Whipple for several hours.

"He was uncooperative and he made some statements that we were able to verify as untrue very quickly into this interview because of the knowledge that we had of his whereabouts previously. Everything he had done has been quite (deceptive) and we have no reason to believe anything he told us was accurate," Budge said.

Meanwhile, the search for the missing girl is ongoing with some 200 officers from federal, state and local agencies taking part, Logan police said.

"We’ve been working around the clock since Saturday morning. No one has stopped," Budge said.

A statement issued Monday afternoon said the search will be called off for the day at dusk and "we will focus heavier on following up with tips and other leads throughout the night. Search teams will resume in the morning."

Search warrants have been served at the missing girl's residence and samples were taken from Whipple himself, he said.

Evidence collected thus far points to Whipple, according to the captain.

"Since the very beginning of this investigation we have enough information and enough evidence we believe that Alex Whipple was involved in the disappearance of Elizabeth Shelley. We're putting together a case and as soon as we have more information, we'll make that available to you," Budge said.

The public's help is still needed to pinpoint Whipple's whereabouts Friday and Saturday, "especially on Saturday though, with or without Elizabeth. If they've seen him if they'd please contact the police," Budge said.

Anyone who lives in the southwest portion of Logan or along 1200 West between Nibley and Hyrum and have video cameras are asked to call Logan police at 435-753-7555 immediately.

People in that area are also asked to search their residences or buildings, yards, outbuildings, containers and garbage cans. If they find anything unusual or that does not belong to them, they should contact the police.

Elizabeth was last seen wearing a red tank top and blue jeans. She is 3 feet 6 inches tall, weighs about 40 pounds and has shoulder-length brown hair with bangs. She has brown eyes.

Jill Parker, public information officer for the Cache County attorney's victim advocate office, read a statement from the family:

"As a family, we are overwhelmed, scared and sad at the recent tragic events that have touched our lives. We are grateful for all those who continue to search and help. We would like to thank law enforcement, volunteers and all other agencies and businesses for their tireless efforts in helping us find our daughter. Our family asks for privacy and respect during this difficult time and continue to hope for the safe return of our sweet girl Lizzy.”

When deputies arrested Whipple, he was found with a baseball bat "along the roadside near 7600 S. 2400 West" and was asked several times to identify himself, a police affidavit states. "The individual refused to identify himself multiple times."

Whipple tried to get away from the Cache County sheriff's deputies as they tried to arrest him. "(He) continued to be combative and was assisted to the ground and handcuffed. (He) had a metal baseball bat tucked in his back pocket and hidden in his jacket along his back," the affidavit states.

"Alex began telling us that he had paraphernalia and drugs on him. A search incident to arrest discovered a pipe consistent with drug use in his right coat pocket and in a left pocket a silver container with thick residue that had an odor … consistent with marijuana," police wrote.

Deputies said Whipple also had an unopened can of beer, despite, a "no alcohol clause" as part of his probation.

"Alexander had a no bail warrant for absconding from Adult Probation and Parole. Alexander admitted to daily drug use and was being sought in relation to the disappearance of a 5-year-old female from the Logan area," the affidavit states.

Whipple was booked into the Cache County Jail for investigation of failure to disclose identity, possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia, possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person and other potential charges. Previous court records list his address as Providence, Cache County.

Whipple has a criminal history. In 2016, he was convicted of assault in an incident of domestic violence involving a "cohabitant," according to state court records. He was convicted of joyriding in another case that year. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance in 2017.

Also in 2017, Whipple stole a car from his neighbor and led Utah Highway Patrol troopers on a 40-mile chase while driving under the influence of alcohol, according to court records. He finally stopped after police in Orem spiked his tires. He was arrested as he tried to run away.

He was sentenced to prison on March 19, 2018, but the prison term was suspended and he was ordered to serve 180 days in jail and five years of probation. Terms of his probation include no alcohol, no illegal drugs and drug testing and no violations of other laws, according to a court docket. A violation of probation could itself send him to prison.


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