‘Live like Lizzy:’ Family and friends remember the 5-year-old girl for her joyful, loving nature

The casket for Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley, a 5-year-old girl who police say was taken from her home and killed by her uncle, is carried following services Tuesday, June 4, 2019, in Logan, Utah. Her uncle, Alex Whipple, is charged with killing her after his sister let him spend the night at the family's home, prosecutors said. Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley disappeared May 25 and was found dead less than a block from her home after a five-day search. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Logan • She was the type of little girl who kicked off her shoes so she could feel the dirt between her toes, a 5-year-old who befriended every bug she saw and who loved to splash in the mud.

Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley enjoyed picking flowers, so much that her mother had to set a rule during their walks: She could only pick one flower per yard, per day.

And when it was nighttime, Lizzy would look up at the sky and exclaim, “Wow! The moon!” If she didn’t think her mom was listening, she would announce once more, “Mom, did you hear what I just said? There’s a moon!”

It’s memories like these that keep running through Jessica Whipple’s mind since her daughter’s death, Whipple told the hundreds that gathered at a Logan funeral home Tuesday afternoon.

Lizzy was reported missing May 25, and authorities have accused her uncle, 21-year-old Alex Whipple, of taking her from her home and killing her. Searchers scoured the Logan area for five days before Alex Whipple disclosed where he had hidden her body, which was buried under leaves and debris in a wooded area about a quarter mile from her home. He is charged with aggravated murder and faces other charges in connection to her death.

(Photo courtesy of the Shelley family / Facebook) Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shelley has been missing since May 25, 2019. Cache County prosecutors have charged her uncle, Alex Whipple, with aggravated murder.

But on Tuesday, there was no mention of the tragic way Lizzy died. Her mother and others shared their memories that showed Lizzy as they saw her. A fearless girl who once tried to ride her scooter down a park slide. A loving person whose fascination with nature often led to her giving gifts of interesting rocks, sticks or flowers to those around her. A free spirit who was always smiling and ready for an adventure. An older sister who wanted to share everything with her younger sibling from the moment she was born.

“I’m gonna miss a lot of Lizzy so much,” Jessica Whipple said. “Snuggling her up. Taking her places. Every time I walk into Smith’s [grocery store], a little voice is going to come in my head, her asking if she could get an apple or an orange. That was her favorite thing to do.”

Jessica Whipple’s fiance, Detrich Black, said he felt privileged to help raise Lizzy and for the little girl to look up to him and call him dad.

He recalled how Lizzy would ride next to him in their van and tell him how to drive. The young girl pointed out the red lights, and warned him to be careful of pedestrians.

"I will never truly say goodbye to Lizzy," he said. "I can still feel her hand in mine. I can still feel her weight in my arms when I would pick her up. Lizzy, you'll always be in my heart."

The Nyman Funeral Home overflowed Tuesday. Lizzy’s family, friends, local police officers and community members wore rainbow ribbons — Lizzy loved rainbows — and some wore tie-dye T-shirts and butterfly wings.

On her casket, rainbow butterflies and the words “Live like Lizzy” were painted. A long line of police officers and Bikers Against Child Abuse accompanied the hearse to the Logan Cemetery where Lizzy was buried in an area called “Babyland,” where other young children have also been laid to rest.

Those who spoke at Lizzy’s funeral encouraged attendees to “live like Lizzy,” to be kinder to those around them and to find joy in small moments. To blow kisses. To squish dirt in your toes. To look a little longer at rainbows.

Lizzy’s mother also thanked those who surrounded the family during the past week and helped look for the little girl. She thanked everyone in the community who sent messages, saying she found strength in their words.

Jessica Whipple said she has generally felt helpless. She was told not to be part of the search for her daughter, she said, so she stayed home and put her trust in law enforcement.

As Lizzy was finally returned to them, Jessica Whipple said she wanted to do something to make her daughter’s funeral beautiful. She skipped preparing a speech, she told mourners, to instead work on a collage. The poster was covered in butterflies and ribbons, with dozens of cut-out photos of Lizzy and her family smiling and laughing together.

At the top, her mother wrote in rainbow markers: “You will always be our daughter.”

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