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Judge reads murder charge against uncle in girl’s death

June 3, 2019
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FILE - In this Saturday, May 25, 2019 booking photo provided by Cache County Sheriff's Office shows Alex Whipple. Whipple, the uncle of a missing 5-year-old Utah girl has been charged with murder as a search for the child stretches into a fifth day. Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen said Wednesday, May 29, 2019, that even though the body of Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley has not been found, her blood was located on a watch and a sweat shirt of her uncle, 21-year-old Whipple. (Cache County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
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FILE - In this Saturday, May 25, 2019 booking photo provided by Cache County Sheriff's Office shows Alex Whipple. Whipple, the uncle of a missing 5-year-old Utah girl has been charged with murder as a search for the child stretches into a fifth day. Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen said Wednesday, May 29, 2019, that even though the body of Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley has not been found, her blood was located on a watch and a sweat shirt of her uncle, 21-year-old Whipple. (Cache County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

LOGAN, Utah (AP) — A Utah man charged with kidnapping and killing his 5-year-old niece made his first court appearance Monday.

Alex Whipple, 21, was handcuffed and silent as a judge read out the charges, including aggravated murder and child kidnapping. He was denied bail.

He is accused of taking Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley from her home and killing her on May 25 after spending the night at his sister’s house, prosecutors said.

Authorities searched for the missing girl for five days before he told his lawyer where he’d hidden her, after prosecutors promised to not pursue the death penalty. The girl’s body was found less than a block from home.

Cache County prosecutor James Swink said finding the child’s body allowed the family to lay the child to rest. “Not to have the body of your child, you just can’t cope with that,” Swink told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Defense attorney Shannon Demler has said his client did something inexcusable but wants the family to find closure.

Whipple’s next court hearing was set for June 24 in Logan, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) north of Salt Lake City.

Lizzy’s blood was found on Whipple’s watch and sweatshirt, authorities said, and his handprint was discovered on a PVC pipe. Her blood was also found on a broken knife taken from the family’s kitchen, charging documents state.

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

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