Police say they have evidence discovered in multiple locations that places 5-year-old Elizabeth Shelley in her uncle’s presence, both in and outside the missing Logan girl’s home.
That evidence has been forensically tested and is being used to build a criminal case against Alexander Whipple, said Logan Police Capt. Tyson Budge at a press conference Monday.
Whipple, 21, and the child were both reported missing from a northwest Logan home at about 10 a.m. Saturday.
While search parties were concentrating their hunt for Elizabeth in the residential neighborhood surrounding her home, Whipple was spotted in the Hyrum area and taken into custody Saturday afternoon. Police questioned him for hours, but he has reportedly been uncooperative from the start.
“Everything he has done has been quite deceitful, and we have no reason to believe that anything he told us was accurate,” Budge said.
Shelley’s family released a short, written statement on Monday that was read aloud by Jill Parker, a spokesperson for the Cache County Victim’s Advocate office, during the police press conference.
“As a family, we are overwhelmed, scared and saddened by the recent, tragic events that have touched our lives,” the statement said. “We are grateful for all those who continue to search and help, and we would like to thank law enforcement, volunteers and all other agencies and businesses for their tireless efforts to find our daughter … and we continue to hope for the safe return of our sweet, girl Lizzy.”
The disappearance sent shock waves through the Logan community and statewide after it was reported on Saturday. Police were inundated with requests from the public to help search for Elizabeth, but they asked volunteers to hold off while searchers from a variety of state and local agencies were deployed. Help has also come from a group of FBI agents with experience in child-abduction cases.
The search has been highly methodical, with multiple teams going door-to-door, talking with residents and obtaining their permission to search homes, garages and sheds inside and out in a multiple-block radius surrounding the family’s home.
Since Saturday, the search has spread out farther from the neighborhood and throughout southwest Logan. Teams have also scoured fields, ditches and other locations in the Hyrum and Mt. Sterling areas.
“This is a very physically, mentally and emotionally draining event,” Budge said over the weekend. “It takes numerous resources and manpower. People do not want to leave and we have to make them, knowing they will be the first back in tomorrow morning.”
As if the situation wasn’t hard enough, Budge said there has been misinformation shared on social media that police are simply not able to compete with because it is spread so quickly.
“It does not help the investigation and it is not fair to the family of the missing child,” he said.
Whipple was initially booked into the jail on an arrest warrant obtained after he allegedly violated probation related to the 2017 theft a truck in the Salt Lake County area.
In that incident, he reportedly fled from police when a Utah Highway Patrol trooper attempted a traffic stop for speeding and failure to maintain a single lane of travel. Whipple was apprehended in Orem and eventually convicted of theft by receiving stolen property, a second-degree felony, and failure to stop at the command of a police officer.
Prison time on those charges was suspended, and Whipple was ordered to spend 180 days in a Salt Lake County jail on a DUI charge in that same case, with credit for 113 days served.
Whipple was ordered to complete five years of probation in conjunction with this case, and court records reveal he was progressing well until the beginning of this year, when he started missing classes and appointments with his treatment provider and counselor.
In March, he reportedly told his probation officer he was going through some personal issues and it was beginning to affect his treatment. By early April, he was no longer in contact with his probation officer, and a Salt Lake District Court judge issued a warrant for his arrest with bail set at $25,000.
In addition to the Salt Lake County arrest warrant, Whipple is also being held locally on a number of misdemeanor offenses, including failure to disclose his identity, unlawful purchase of alcohol by an interdicted person, failure to stop at the command of a police officer, plus possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Bail in these cases has been set at $20,000, but formal charges have not been filed at this time.