LOGAN — Months after the body of Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley was found buried behind a home in downtown Logan, Alex W. Whipple confessed to killing the 5-year-old girl. The 21-year-old Providence man accepted a plea deal that will still likely send him to prison for the rest of his life.
Whipple appeared in 1st District Court Tuesday afternoon for a preliminary hearing. He waived his right to the hearing and pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, a capital offense; along with felony child kidnapping, rape of a child, and sodomy of a child.
Whipple wore handcuffs and shackles, flanked by deputies behind him, as he stood beside one of his public defenders, Shannon Demler. He spoke only briefly, telling the court he was willingly waiving his right to a fair trial and that he was guilty of the charges.
Cache County Attorney James Swink said Whipple seized Shelley from her bedroom and took her from her home before sexually assaulting her. The defendant’s DNA was later found in her body, proving that she had been raped and sodomized.
Swink described how Whipple stabbed Shelley in the back with a kitchen knife. The knife punctured her lungs, causing them to fill with blood, and killing her. It was later found by police near the victim’s home.
Outside the courtroom, Demler said Whipple has expressed sorrow to him for what happened and is willing to face the punishment. There is still no explanation for what led to the girl’s death.
“I think that there is some underlying tone of mental illness involved here that makes a person do something like this for no apparent reason,” Demler said. “I mean there is no justification, we know that, for doing things such as this to a 5-year-old little girl, no matter what she did. There is no justification for that so I think it is definitely a mental health issue that needs to be ferreted out.”
Whipple was arrested May 25 after Lizzy’s family called 911, reporting her missing. He had spent the night at their Logan home after staying up late, drinking and playing video games. Deputies later located him, walking near Mt. Sterling. He had blood on his clothes that matched the young girl’s. Days later he agreed to tell police where her body was located if prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty in his case.
Demler said Whipple has undergone mental evaluations which will hopefully help provide some understanding of why Whipple killed Shelley. He expects his client will likely be given the maximum sentence but will hopefully one day be released.
“Our argument is going to be, give [Whipple] a chance to change in prison. We know he is going to be there a lot of years. We know that he is going to face a big penalty, but hopefully someday he may have the opportunity to be released if he reforms and changes.”
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped the nine remaining charges against Whipple, including desecration of a body and obstructing justice. They did not speak with the media following the hearing but said they would issue a statement after sentencing.
Shelley’s aunt, Liesel Merrill, spoke on behalf of the family. She expressed appreciation to those who had offered words of comfort and prayers during their “nightmare.”
“We miss Lizzy immensely,” said Merrill. “We would like to thank the Logan City Police Department, Cache County Attorney’s Office, and Victim’s Services for helping us through this horrific process. We are hopeful that the criminal case can be resolved quickly, so that we can continue to grieve without the worries of the court hearings. At this time, we would like to remind everyone that Lizzy was about kindness, happiness, and looking for butterflies and rainbows. We ask that people everywhere remember to live like Lizzy.”
Whipple remains in the Cache County Jail, being held without bail. He is scheduled to be sentenced September 24.