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Lawyer: Suspect in Utah 5-year-old's disappearance told police site of girl's body

A man charged with murder in the death of his 5-year-old niece has told police where her body is hidden, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Posted: May 29, 2019 2:50 PM
Updated: May 29, 2019 2:51 PM

By LINDSAY WHITEHURST Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A man charged with murder in the death of his 5-year-old niece has told police where her body is hidden, his lawyer said Wednesday.

The disclosure came hours after 21-year-old Alex Whipple was charged with murder after police said they found the blood of Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley on his sweatshirt and his handprint in what appears to be blood on a piece of plastic pipe.

"He knows he did something that's inexcusable," defense attorney Shannon Demler said. "He wanted at least the family to know ... she had passed away so that they could get some kind of closure."

The body is less than a block from the girl's home, Demler said.

Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen said officers were investigating a credible tip but hadn't yet recovered the girl's body.

In previous interviews with police, Whipple didn't acknowledge involvement in the disappearance but alluded frequently to "how evil the world we live in is" and talked about his struggles as a child, prosecutors said in court documents.

He also told police alcohol makes him "black out" and sometimes do "criminal things," the documents state.

Whipple was charged with aggravated murder, child kidnapping, obstruction of justice and desecration of a human body, a charge that relates to steps taken to hide the body, Jensen said.

Jensen said the child's blood was found on Whipple's watch and sweatshirt. His handprint was discovered on the piece of PVC pipe near a broken knife bearing her blood that was taken from her family's kitchen, authorities said.

A teal skirt with lace that she was last seen wearing was nearby, the charges state.

The search for Lizzy began Saturday morning, when her frantic mother reported the girl's bed was empty and the front door was wide open. Also missing was Whipple, who had slept on the couch after a night of drinking with his sister and her boyfriend.

Whipple was found several hours later about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the family home. His hands were "filthy," he had cuts on his fingers and dark, blood-colored stains on his pants, authorities said.

He also had a pipe used for narcotics as well as a baseball bat and a beer, according to charging documents. When handcuffs were later removed, he began licking his hands and trying to wipe them clean, police said. Authorities don't consider the bat to be part of the disappearance.

Whipple agreed to talk to police and initially denied he had been at his sister's house the night Lizzy went missing. He later said he had visited then left for a walk early in the morning.

Whipple has a criminal record that includes a 2016 assault on a roommate, possession of a stolen vehicle and drug-related charges.

He had been on probation and making progress but began missing appointments at the beginning of the year and dropped out of touch in April, a probation agent said in court documents.

The girl disappeared in Logan, a small city located in a picturesque mountain valley near the Idaho border about 80 miles (129 kilometers) north of Salt Lake City.

"This is a 5-year-old girl and she's still missing and that's not easy for anybody," Jensen said, holding back tears. "We want to find her, we want the family to have what they deserve, and that is closure and/or Lizzy back in their home."

Whipple is scheduled to make a court appearance Monday.

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