UPDATE: Lawyer says uncle told police location of body

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LOGAN, Utah (AP/CNN/KSTU) — An attorney for a man charged with murder in the death of his 5-year-old niece has told police where he hid her body, his lawyer said Wednesday.

(CNN/KSTU) Search for Utah 5-year-old girl: Suspect appears in court, seen in new surveillance video.

The disclosure came hours after 21-year-old Alex Whipple was charged with murder after police said they found the blood of Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley on his sweatshirt and his handprint in what appears to be blood on a piece of plastic pipe.

"He knows he did something that's inexcusable," defense attorney Shannon Demler said. "He wanted at least the family to know ... she had passed away so that they could get some kind of closure."

The body is less than a block from the girl's home, Demler said.
Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen said officers were investigating a credible tip but hadn't yet recovered the girl's body.

In previous interviews with police, Whipple didn't acknowledge involvement in the disappearance but alluded frequently to "how evil the world we live in is" and talked about his struggles as a child, prosecutors said in court documents.

He also told police alcohol makes him "black out" and sometimes do "criminal things," the documents state.

Whipple was charged with aggravated murder, child kidnapping, obstruction of justice and desecration of a human body, a charge that relates to steps taken to hide the body, Jensen said.

Jensen said the child's blood was found on Whipple's watch and sweatshirt. His handprint was discovered on the piece of PVC pipe near a broken knife bearing her blood that was taken from her family's kitchen, authorities said.

A teal skirt with lace that she was last seen wearing was nearby, the charges state.

The search for Lizzy began Saturday morning, when her frantic mother reported the girl's bed was empty and the front door was wide open. Also missing was Whipple, who had slept on the couch after a night of drinking with his sister and her boyfriend.

Whipple was found several hours later about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the family home. His hands were "filthy," he had cuts on his fingers and dark, blood-colored stains on his pants, authorities said.

He also had a pipe used for narcotics as well as a baseball bat and a beer, according to charging documents. When handcuffs were later removed, he began licking his hands and trying to wipe them clean, police said. Authorities don't consider the bat to be part of the disappearance.

Whipple agreed to talk to police and initially denied he had been at his sister's house the night Lizzy went missing. He later said he had visited then left for a walk early in the morning.

Whipple has a criminal record that includes a 2016 assault on a roommate, possession of a stolen vehicle and drug-related charges.

He had been on probation and making progress but began missing appointments at the beginning of the year and dropped out of touch in April, a probation agent said in court documents.

The girl disappeared in Logan, a small city located in a picturesque mountain valley near the Idaho border about 80 miles (129 kilometers) north of Salt Lake City.

"This is a 5-year-old girl and she's still missing and that's not easy for anybody," Jensen said, holding back tears. "We want to find her, we want the family to have what they deserve, and that is closure and/or Lizzy back in their home."

Whipple is scheduled to make a court appearance Monday.
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Associated Press writer Brady McCombs contributed to this story.

INITIAL STORY (11:25 A.M.) —
DNA has provided further evidence that the 21-year-old uncle of a missing 5-year-old girl in Utah is behind her disappearance, police said Tuesday.

Evidence also indicates the girl, Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley, is hurt, authorities said, though they did not elaborate. She was reported missing Saturday morning by her family after they woke up.

"We would never dash the hope that we would find her alive," Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen said at a news conference. "But it's certainly a concern for us at this point; Lizzy's safety."

Jensen said police have "strong evidence," including the DNA, linking Alex Whipple to the disappearance of Shelley.

He was denied bail Tuesday during a court hearing in Logan in which he appeared via video in a dark blue jail uniform. He slumped back slightly in his chair, eyes cast downward.

His attorney, Shannon Demler, had argued that Whipple should get bail because he has not been charged in connection with the disappearance.

The girl was last seen before family members went to bed about 2 a.m., Jensen said. The uncle was staying at the house that night but doesn't live there.

The ongoing search is concentrated on a one-half mile (0.8 kilometer) area around the family's home in Logan, in a picturesque mountain valley near the Idaho border about 80 miles (129 kilometers) north of Salt Lake City.

Teams searched a number of locations, including an empty field near downtown Logan, where about nine police officers spread out in a line, eyes scanning the ground.

Nancy Buttars, 63, said crews searched Monday along a river behind her house, walking up and down the banks and through underbrush, as well as along railroad tracks.

She said she had searched her property herself after hearing alerts about the missing girl.

For many people, the case has disturbed the close-knit sense of tranquility that comes with living in a small community.

"I just hope they find her and put an end to it," Buttars said.

Betty Balls, 55, a hotel housekeeper in nearby Wellsville, came to the courthouse for Whipple's hearing to show support for the family, though she doesn't know them personally.

"Please, wherever she is, bring her home to her family," Balls said through tears. "This is a safe environment. The kids play outside, and you know they're out there. Nothing like this should happen at all."

Whipple was found Saturday afternoon in a remote area about 10 miles from the family home, several hours after the girl was reported missing. He was combative and refused to identify himself several times when police spotted him walking in a remote area, according to court documents.

Police found him with a metal baseball bat, alcohol and drug paraphernalia. Jensen said the bat isn't part of evidence in the disappearance.

Whipple was booked into Cache County Jail for investigation of probation violations, failure to identify himself to police and possession of a controlled substance.

In 2016, Whipple was convicted of assaulting his roommate in an incident of domestic violence, according to court records.

The same year, Whipple was arrested after police said he stole his neighbor's car and drove under the influence of alcohol. A 40-mile (64 kilometers) chase ended when the Utah Highway Patrol spiked the tires of the car, court documents show.

Whipple was sentenced to prison in March 2018 but his term was suspended, and he was instead ordered to serve 180 days in jail and five years of probation.
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Associated Press writer Morgan Smith in Salt Lake City contributed to this story.



 
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