LOGAN — Public defender Shannon Demler is one of the few people who has been able to speak with Alex Whipple. He is also being praised and cursed for convincing the 21-year-old Providence man, accused of killing Lizzy Shelley, to tell him where the 5-year-old’s body was located.
Although many people were relieved when Demler led police to Shelley’s body, buried under debris in a backyard a half-block from her home, some were angry in the negotiations that led to the Wednesday discovery.
Demler explained that he met with Whipple several times after being assigned to represent him. He said that as the search wore on, and prosecutors filed their murder charges, he tried to convince Whipple to tell him where the body had been disposed of.
“I talked to [Whipple] about what he thought would be the appropriate action to take, due to the fact that it was his family and a lot of people in the community were out searching and putting in a lot of hours to try and find the victim in this matter,” said Demler. “At that point we turned our conversation towards what should we do that is the right thing.”
Whipple agreed to tell Demler where Lizzy’s body was if prosecutors promised not to seek the death penalty in his case.
Demler said when he spoke to prosecutors and police, they were willing to negotiate the agreed term. He explained that his main focus was trying to bring closure for the family and searchers that had been unable to locate the girl’s body for five-days.
“The last thing you want to do is go and find a dead body,” said Demler, emotionally. “I mean that’s not the preference for anybody, to have to on a Wednesday afternoon. We felt it was the best thing to do though, the best thing for everybody involved.”
This isn’t the first time Demler has been in a tough position. As a public defender, he has been assigned to represent some of the worst criminals who can’t afford to hire an attorney. Earlier this year he defended Stacy Willis, who confessed to killing a California woman, Merrilee Cox-Lafferty. In 2017, he represented Jayzon Decker, who admitted to attempting to kill Deserae Turner. He said that even though many of these individuals have committed some of the most heinous crimes imaginable, they still have constitutional rights that he has to defend.
Demler hasn’t specifically spoken to Whipple about what happened last Saturday morning. He explained, though, that during the past several days his client has become very regretful, as he realizes what he has done.
“He is very emotional and very remorseful. I think he is confused, very disoriented as to what happened, and what is going on.”
Whipple remains in jail after a judge Tuesday ordered that he be held without bail. He is scheduled to appear again in court Monday. In addition to aggravated murder, he is suspected of child kidnapping, a second-degree felony, two counts of obstructing justice and abuse or desecration of a body, a third-degree felony. He could face up to life in prison if convicted.