Logan • It's the kind of thing that doesn't happen in a place like Logan.
A little girl goes missing. Her 21-year-old uncle is behind bars, the main suspect in her disappearance.
A community is left with many questions, but the most important — Where is 5-year-old Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley? — remains unanswered.
On the fourth day since she disappeared, there are reminders of the search throughout the town. Police officers were combing through bushes in a quaint park near Lizzy’s home, and knocking on doors with shovels in hand before scouring the yards of those who live nearby on quiet, tree-lined streets. Two missing posters with a photo of the girl grinning wide, her nose crinkled were taped to a local diner’s door, with a third near the cash register.
In the courthouse, where Lizzy’s uncle Alex Whipple had a brief appearance in connection to minor charges, women who had never met Lizzy or her family before came and wept.
Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen said earlier Tuesday that finding Lizzy is obviously of the utmost important, not only for her family, but for a criminal case his team is building against Whipple.
Jensen was tightlipped about the specifics, but said DNA found near the girl’s home ties Whipple to Lizzy’s disappearance.
“From the evidence we have, we believe Lizzy is hurt, but we don’t know what condition she is in,” the chief told reporters Tuesday.
Asked if he thought she was dead or alive, Jensen said: “We would never dash the hope that we would find her alive."
Jensen dismissed the possibility that police should be looking for people beyond Whipple who may have been involved in Shelley’s disappearance.
Police also released new photos of Whipple, renewing their call for anyone who may have seen him on Friday night or Saturday morning to come forward. The photos — taken from surveillance footage — show Whipple as he was dressed late Friday.
“We hope this helps you as you are checking your cameras and smart doorbell systems,” Logan police posted on Facebook. “If you have video footage please report it to dispatch at 435-753-7555.”
Authorities have focused their search on a 10-mile stretch from Logan to Hyrum, particularly along 1200 West. While some video surveillance turned over to police has captured Whipple’s movements that day, Jensen said there has been no footage so far of Lizzy.
Jensen said Lizzy’s family had stayed up late Friday, and the girl was last seen at about 2 a.m. Saturday. When the family woke up, Lizzy and Whipple were gone. The girl was reported missing at about 10 a.m. that day.
Whipple is being held in the Cache County jail. He made a court appearance Tuesday via video conference related to minor charges that appear to be unrelated to Lizzy’s disappearance.
He didn’t speak during his court hearing. Prosecutors asked that he be kept in the jail without an opportunity to post bail — noting he was the only suspect in the case of a missing girl. Whipple’s defense attorney, Shannon Demler, pushed back, noting he was in jail for only minor crimes and bail should be set in line with what he is actually charged with.
Judge Kevin Allen sided with prosecutors, ordering that Whipple be kept in jail without bail, at least until his next court hearing scheduled for Monday.
Most of the people in the courtroom on Tuesday were either reporters or there for court themselves. But two women, including Cache County resident Melanie Norton, said they wanted to be in the courtroom even though they didn’t know Lizzy or her family personally.
“This is not the kind of community we live in,” Norton said. “This has literally never happened in our town before. People who live in Logan, Utah, live here because we have a safe and loving community. And we’re all in shock.”
Police found Whipple walking alone in a rural area Saturday around 3 p.m., but jail documents indicate the man initially refused to identify himself to officers. After being told he was under arrest, Whipple allegedly struggled to get away from the two Cache County deputies and was taken to the ground and handcuffed.
Once handcuffed, police found a metal baseball bat tucked in Whipple’s back pocket and hidden in his jacket along his back, according to a probable cause statement filed with the jail. They also allegedly found a pipe, suspected marijuana and an unopened can of beer.
Whipple was not supposed to have alcohol as part of his probation.
Court records show that Whipple is on probation for two cases — a 2017 drug possession conviction in Logan's justice court and another case where he pleaded guilty to felonies after leading police on a chase in a stolen vehicle in September 2017.
In that case, Whipple admitted that he drove a stolen Toyota from Salt Lake County to Orem, where officers there spiked his tires and were able to arrest him.
Charging documents allege Whipple had been driving drunk, and that the car was stolen from his neighbor’s driveway. He pleaded guilty to charges, and in March 2018 was sentenced to six months in jail and probation.
A $25,000 warrant was issued for his arrest last month after Whipple missed a meeting with his probation officer, and stopped attending substance abuse treatment. Court records say that when a probation officer went to Whipple’s listed address April 4, the homeowners said he no longer lived there and that he might be “in some trouble with the police.”
Whipple’s criminal history also includes a 2016 assault conviction involving domestic violence.