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Uncle accused of killing Utah girl makes court appearance on eve of her funeral

LOGAN — The man accused of kidnapping and killing his 5-year-old niece in Logan, prompting a massive five-day search, made a brief appearance in court Monday.

Alexander William Whipple, 21, is charged with aggravated murder and child kidnapping, first-degree felonies; two counts of obstructing justice, second-degree felonies; and abuse or desecration of a body, a third-degree felony, in the death of Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley.

On Monday, during a brief initial appearance in 1st District Court, a judge ordered that Whipple continue to be held without bail and set his next court hearing for June 24.

Alex Whipple.
Alex Whipple.
Cache County Sheriff's Office

"Given the recent charges, of course I'm not going to allow bail," Judge Kevin Allen told attorneys in court.

On May 25, Lizzy was reported missing after her mother and live-in boyfriend woke up to find the front door open and both Lizzy and Whipple gone. Whipple had been invited to his sister's house late the night before and was told he could sleep on the couch, according to charging documents.

Whipple was located by police about 3 p.m. and arrested for violating his probation. He was also uncooperative with officers and immediately considered a suspect in Lizzy's disappearance. He was charged with six misdemeanor crimes, including failing to disclose his identity to police and drug possession.

The next day, he was chargedwith capital murder even though Lizzy's body still had not been found.

After five days of searching, the Cache County Attorney's Office agreed to take the death penalty off the table in exchange for Whipple disclosing the location of Lizzy's body. A motive for the killing has not been revealed.

Alex Whipple, suspected in the disappearance of his 5-year-old niece, Elizabeth Shelley, appears on a video feed in 1st District Court in Logan on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, as he is arraigned on six misdemeanor charges unrelated to the missing girl.
Alex Whipple, suspected in the disappearance of his 5-year-old niece, Elizabeth Shelley, appears on a video feed in 1st District Court in Logan on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, as he is arraigned on six misdemeanor charges unrelated to the missing girl.
Eli Lucero

Whipple's court hearing comes a day before Lizzy is to be laid to rest. Cache County Attorney James Swink said after Monday's hearing that the entire community was still in mourning, and that everyone's thoughts were with Lizzy's family.

"Today's priority isn't about court and the case so much, it's about the family. Today is the day that there will be a viewing for our victim, Elizabeth. And we want to give due respect to the family. They're in mourning, and tomorrow there will be a funeral," he said.

Swink also reiterated that it was because of the good work by police who investigated the case that he was able to file a charge of capital murder, and because of that charge they were able to negotiate a deal that resulted in Lizzy's body being found.

"As mothers know, even better than fathers, not to have the body of your child is … you just can't cope with that. You can't get your head around that. And because we were able to work out a resolution in that one small aspect, the mother has the body of her child back and is able to lay her to rest in a proper way," Swink said.

Although he won't seek the death penalty, the county attorney said the state's priority now is to make sure they can "lock (Whipple) up for the rest of his life."

Contributing: Paul Nelson