Uncle charged with killing 5-year-old niece appears in court

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LOGAN — Alexander Whipple, the man charged with killing his 5-year-old niece, Elizabeth Shelley, appeared in 1st District Court Monday and the county prosecutor said the state is looking to "lock him up for the rest of his life."

Whipple, 21, was charged Wednesday — before police found Elizabeth's body — with aggravated murder and child kidnapping, both first-degree felonies; two counts of obstructing justice, a second-degree felony; and abuse or desecration of a body, a third-degree felony.

The court didn’t set a date for the preliminary hearing Monday but instead made a decision to set a preliminary hearing date on June 24 at another court hearing. Whipple stayed silent during his court appearance and the judge ordered he be held without bail.

Logan police said on May 28 they found forensic evidence linking Whipple to his niece's disappearance. Cache County Attorney James Swink later agreed to take the death penalty off the table in exchange for information on where to find Elizabeth's body, which Whipple delivered.

Elizabeth's body was found 1/2 block away from the home she went missing from five days prior.

Swink said after the hearing Monday the state will pursue the maximum sentence of life in prison since the death penalty is no longer an option.

He noted the “negotiated settlement” helped bring closure to the family and allowed Elizabeth’s mother to have “the body of her child back and is able to lay her to rest in a proper way.”

“The state will look forward to never letting this person out of prison, … ever,” Swink said. “We look to lock him up for the rest of his life and never have him back on the streets. We need to protect the family and our community from that individual and that’s what we will do and that’s our primary target for going forward is to keep him locked up and to never be let back out.”

Swink praised the police work Monday after the hearing that provided "ample" evidence which allowed the state to file charges against Whipple.

A candlelight vigil titled “Remember Little Lizzy” was held Saturday, exactly one week after she went missing.

Since Elizabeth's body was found, community members also placed stuffed animals and other memorabilia outside the family's home. One local charity group asked people to tie rainbow ribbons, in honor of Elizabeth's favorite color, on trees and mailboxes to honor her.

Swink said Elizabeth's viewing will be Monday and the funeral is scheduled for Tuesday. He added that her family and the community is in mourning.

"Today really is about the family and about Elizabeth and being able to put her to rest and we want to give due respect to the family,” he said.

Contributing: Paul Nelson, KSL Newsradio


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Lauren Bennett is a reporter with KSL.com who covers Utah’s religious community and the growing tech sector in the Beehive State.


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