LOGAN — Months after sexually assaulting and killing Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley and burying her body behind a home in downtown Logan, Alex W. Whipple was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The 22-year-old Providence man showed little emotion as he was told that he will never be released.
Whipple was sentenced in 1st District Court Tuesday afternoon. He previously pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, a capital offense; along with felony child kidnapping, rape of a child, and sodomy of a child.
Judge Kevin Allen said the terror which Whipple inflicted on Lizzy, her family and the community was incomprehensible. He acknowledged that the defendant had an abusive childhood but explained that it couldn’t justify the horror caused to an innocent child.
“Mr. Whipple, the time has come for you to begin to pay what you did,” said Judge Allen. “You will never see the light of day. You will never breathe free air again. I am genuinely sorry for you. This tragedy touches everyone, even you. What you did was so abhorrent and vile that you must spend the rest of your life in prison, away from the victims, and away from this community that you unspeakably terrorized.”
Whipple was given the maximum sentence of life in prison for the charge of murder, and three terms of 25-years-to-life for the three other felonies. The four charges will run consecutively, meaning that he will never be eligible for a parole hearing.
Whipple wore handcuffs and shackles, flanked by his two public defenders, Shannon Demler and Bryan Galloway. He refused to comment, when asked if he would like to make a statement. Throughout most of the hearing, he kept his head down, occasionally wiping his eyes with a tissue.
Several members of Lizzy’s family pleaded with the court to give Whipple the maximum sentence. They shared their memories of the 5-year-old girl, who loved flowers, rocks, and the colors of the rainbow. Several times they spoke directly to Whipple, calling him a monster, who should spend the rest of his life rotting behind bars.
Lizzy’s mother, Jessica Black did not attend her brother’s sentencing. She held a press conference immediately afterwards, thanking the community for their support during the past several months.
“For our family, our lives will never be the same,” said Black. “We will never forget our sweet girl and the happiness and the sunshine she brought us. Staying in the present and remembering Lizzy’s love is what I’m trying hard to do each day. Every day is a process of surviving and not getting over-whelmed by my memories.”
Alex 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.
Medical examiners later determined that Whipple raped and sodomized Lizzy. He then slashed her neck and stabbed her in the chest with a kitchen knife.
Outside the courtroom, after Whipple’s sentencing, Cache County Attorney James Swink thanked Judge Allen for his sentence, and said he hoped the community would be able to start healing from this tragedy. He also tearfully thanked the officers for their efforts to find Lizzy’s body and investigate her murder.
“This is an experience that has taken a little bit of soul of everyone who has touched it, including the court today, Swink said. Especially, those law enforcement officers that found Lizzy’s body. That investigated every piece, and touched every piece of this case. I cannot express enough my appreciation for them in this process.”
Later outside the historic Cache County Courthouse, Jessica Black and her husband Detrich Black, released more than a dozen butterflies into the air, surrounded by family and law enforcement members.