LOGAN — Criminal charges were filed Tuesday against the uncle of a missing 5-year-old Logan girl, who police say has not been cooperative with them and who they believe is responsible for the girl's disappearance.
But none of the charges are directly connected to the disappearance of Elizabeth Shelley.
Alexander William Whipple, 21, of Providence, is charged in 1st District Court with six misdemeanors: failing to stop at the command of law enforcers, a class A misdemeanor, plus failing to disclose his identity, unlawful purchase by an interdicted person, drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon, class B misdemeanors.
He was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Logan. Court documents suggested bail be set at $20,000, but during the hearing, prosecutors asked that he be held without bail. A hearing to determine bail was set for Monday.
Although the charges aren't connected to the disappearance of "Lizzy," Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen repeated several times during a press conference Tuesday that detectives are "strongly" focused on Whipple.
"The case is progressing. We have strong evidence connecting Alex to Lizzy's disappearance,” he said. "He’s definitely our suspect right now."
As for Lizzy's condition, Jensen said he doesn't want to give up hope.
"I don’t ever want to take hope out of the equation," he said. "So to say it's a recovery, I don’t think I want to go there yet."
But Jensen did concede that based on the collection of DNA evidence, "We believe that Lizzy is hurt, but we don’t know what condition she is in right now."
Tuesday's charges came as the search for Elizabeth entered its fourth day. She was last seen at 2 a.m. Saturday in her Logan home and was discovered missing about 9:30 a.m. Whipple, who had been at the house that night, was also gone.
Whipple was found by Logan police about 3 p.m. Saturday about 10 miles away and was taken into custody on outstanding warrants unrelated to Elizabeth's disappearance. Jensen believes Whipple walked to where he was found.
Jensen said the biggest challenge for police is figuring out where Lizzy and Whipple were during those eight hours between when she was last seen and when she was reported missing.
"We're not 100 percent sure as to what time they went missing,” the chief said.
The search, thus far, has largely been focused on a half-mile radius around Lizzy's house, where "evidentiary items" were discovered.
On Monday, Logan Police Capt. Tyson Budge announced that evidence found near Elizabeth's house had been tested and linked to Whipple.
"These items have been forensically tested and they do link Mr. Whipple to our missing child, Elizabeth. They also have evidence that links them to the residence that they were in," he said.
"(It) also links them together outside the home. We have several of these scenes that we have located that have evidentiary items in that we have now tested and have evidence that they were together."
When police found Whipple near 7600 South and 2400 West in Cache County, he "refused to identify himself multiple times," according to a police affidavit.
When a backup officer arrived, Whipple was told to place his hands on his head because he was under arrest, but he "still refused to do so" and then attempted to pull his arms away when officers grabbed him, the affidavit states.
"(He) continued to be combative and was assisted to the ground and handcuffed. The male had a metal baseball bat tucked in his back pocket and hidden in his jacket along his back," according to the report.
Police wrote that Whipple "admitted to daily drug use" and was being investigated in Elizabeth's disappearance.
In 2017, Whipple stole a car from his neighbor and led Utah Highway Patrol troopers on a 40-mile chase while driving under the influence of alcohol, according to court records. Whipple was later convicted in that case of theft by receiving stolen property and failing to stop for law enforcement and received a suspended prison sentence and ordered to serve five years of probation. But he was sentenced to 180 days in jail for the DUI conviction.
In November 2017, Whipple was convicted in Logan Justice Court of misdemeanor drug possession.
On April 29, arrest warrants were issued for violating the conditions of his probation for both of those cases. Court documents from Cache County say he absconded from his probation. In Salt Lake County, a warrant was issued after Whipple allegedly failed to complete drug treatment and failed to check in with Adult Probation and Parole.
A parole report says Whipple was "progressing" with his probation until he started missing treatment appointments at the beginning of the year.
"It continued into February and March. The defendant was warned on multiple occasions to stop missing classes. The defendant reported in March that he was going through personal stuff and it was beginning to affect his treatment," the report states.
By April 4, Whipple had stopped going to treatment altogether and stopped checking in with his probation officer, according to investigators.
On Tuesday, Logan police released new surveillance photos showing Whipple on Friday and what he was wearing. He appears to be leaving a store.
Surveillance video also released Tuesday shows Whipple about 6:45 a.m. Saturday just a few blocks from Elizabeth's home. A business owner in the area said a worker spotted a man running through an empty lot across the street from the business, behind an old train car, and then jumping over debris and plywood.
About 15 minutes later, while the worker was pulling out of the parking lot, the same man walked in front of his pick-up truck, according to the business owner. The man's pants appeared to be wet below the knees. The driver of the truck immediately thought it was suspicious and called for co-workers to keep an eye on the man.
Police confirmed the man seen in that surveillance video is believed to be Whipple. Elizabeth was not with Whipple in the footage.
"We hope this helps you as you are checking your cameras and smart doorbell systems. If you have video footage, please report it to (police) dispatch at 435-753-7555," Logan police said.
Investigators specifically asked for residents who have video cameras in the southwest portion of Logan or along 1200 West between Nibley and Hyrum to check them and call. People in that area have also been asked to search their residences or buildings, yards, outbuildings, containers and garbage cans. If they find anything unusual or that does not belong to them, they are asked to contact police.14 comments on this story
Elizabeth was last seen wearing a red tank top and blue jeans. She is 3 feet, 6 inches tall, weighs about 40 pounds and has shoulder-length brown hair with bangs. She has brown eyes.
"Our greatest concern is finding Lizzy for the family. We’ll deal with charges later,” Jensen said.
The chief said local, state and federal agencies have so far spent thousands of hours assisting in the search.
"We’ve got folks spread all over the valley right now chasing those tips,” he said. "Our ultimate goal is finding Lizzy."
Contributing: Ladd Egan