Elizabeth Shelley: Uncle of missing 5-year-old girl charged with aggravated murder

The uncle of a missing 5-year-old Utah girl was arrested and charged in her death after her DNA was discovered on multiple pieces of evidence, including a knife believed to have been taken from her family home.

Alex Whipple, 21, has been charged with aggravated murder as a capital felony, child kidnapping as a first-degree felony, two counts of obstructing justice as second-degree felonies and one count of desecration of a human body as a third-degree felony in the disappearance of his niece, Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley, KSTU reports.

The charges were filed Wednesday despite the fact that the search for the child is ongoing, as there is sufficient evidence linking Whipple to the crime, court documents state.

Lizzy was last seen asleep in her bed at 2 a.m. on Saturday at her home in the town of Logan, following an informal Friday night gathering at her house.

Whipple had allegedly come over to the residence, after Lizzy was put to bed, to drink with his sister — Lizzy's mother — and her boyfriend, Salt Lake City's Deseret News reports.

The child was reported missing that same morning, around 10 a.m., after it was discovered both she and Whipple were gone.

Police located the suspect in a rural area later Saturday afternoon for questioning upon which, charging documents state, he began "licking his hands" and trying to wipe them clean. He also had dark stains resembling dried blood on his pants and several cuts on his fingers. Whipple was then arrested on an outstanding warrant for a probation violation.

Police found a broken, bloody knife — later determined to be from Lizzy's house — near Bear River Charter School, along with a PVC pipe with a bloody handprint on it, according to Deseret News. Investigators also found a skirt believed to be Lizzy's about 50 meters from the knife and pipe. 

DNA testing later revealed that the blood on Whipple's sweatshirt, watch, the broken knife and PVC pipe matched Lizzy's.

The suspect allegedly lied to detectives multiple times during questioning before admitting alcohol sometimes "makes him 'black out'" and "do 'criminal things,'" although he would not elaborate on what he meant by "criminal things," the paper reports.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call police at 435-753-7555.

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