Police have confirmed that the human remains found under a tree in Utah belong to missing 5-year-old Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley, who was taken from her home over Memorial Day weekend before a several-day-long search was launched.
Lizzy’s body was found on May 29 less than one block from her Salt Lake City home after her uncle, Alex Whipple, reportedly led police to her remains.
Officials confirmed her identity on the evening of May 30, reported the Salt Lake Tribune.
“This was the moment we had hoped would come,” Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen told reporters at a news conference, according to the paper. “Obviously, certainly not the way we wanted it to happen. We certainly would have wanted to bring Lizzy home, but this nevertheless is closure and it helps us to be able to now deal with the investigation and help the family through their grief.”
BREAKING: Alex Whipple, the uncle of missing 5-year-old Elizabeth Shelley, was charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping, desecration of a dead human body, and obstruction of justice. Updates from police expected in 10 min.https://t.co/QnCes0l2U6 pic.twitter.com/HWlTBJfwXw
— ABC4 News (@abc4utah) May 29, 2019
Whipple, 21, revealed the location of the girl’s body, buried under debris in a wooded area only about 1,000 feet from her home, according to his attorney, Shannon Demler.
The attorney said he took police to the site before police recovered the body.
Jensen said that Whipple disclosed the location of her body in exchange for prosecutors removing the possibility of him getting the death penalty.
“There are not words to express the sadness and the heartbreak we feel today,” Shelley spokeswoman Jill Parker told reporters. “This did not end the way we wanted it to, but in this sadness we are comforted that so many people put forth so much effort to help us find Lizzy. You made the difference and we are so very grateful.”
According to local news website Cache Valley Daily, a positive identification was made by detectives in conjunction with the Utah state crime lab. They also determined her cause of death, but officials did not publicly disclose that information.
Jill Parker is the spokesperson for the mother of #ElizabethShelley. This is the mother’s statement after police say the young 5-year old girls body was found in Logan today. This will be part of our team coverage for @KSL5TV at 10 tonight in Logan. pic.twitter.com/hdYkBT4Vzz
— Alex Cabrero (@KSL_AlexCabrero) May 30, 2019
Whipple was suspected as Lizzy’s killer early on Saturday morning. Her mother, Jessica Whipple, invited her brother over to her home to play video games and drink before he left in the early morning while other family members were sleeping.
A police report stated that he had blood matching Lizzy’s DNA on his clothing when he was picked up by officials, according to the Valley Daily. He also informed police that drinking alcohol made him black out.
The search continued for a 5yr-old girl in Utah reported missing Saturday, and police have identified her uncle as the “main suspect” in her disappearance. Elizabeth Shelley, of Logan, was last seen at 2 a.m. Saturday when her mother went to bed pic.twitter.com/Nz4yrGd2y9
— Sherman (@Shermanbot) May 26, 2019
Whipple also changed his story several times before talking about the evil of the world and child abuse. “At times, Alexander would state that alcohol makes him ‘black out’ and sometimes he does ‘criminal things’ when he blacks out. Alexander would not elaborate on what these ‘criminal things’ were,” said a probable cause statement, according to the Post-Register.
Jensen added that a knife that was used in the crime was discovered in the area in the northwest corner of the Bear River Charter School parking lot, the Post-Register reported. An item of Lizzy’s clothing was found nearby.
Logan Police just released this new missing poster as they continue their search for Elizabeth Shelley. pic.twitter.com/nUYiKu3Olv
— Sean Moody (@SeanMoodyKSL) May 26, 2019
“Approximately 50 yards due west, investigators located a teal skirt with white lace that appeared to have been hastily buried under some dirt and bark … the skirt has stains on it that are consistent with blood,” said a probable cause statement in the case. “Near the skirt was a small concrete block with blood on it.”
Whipple is slated to appear in court on Monday, June 3.
Court records said that Whipple faces one count of aggravated murder, child kidnapping, two counts of obstruction of justice, and abuse or desecration of a human body, KUTV reported.