Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley, the 5-year-old Utah girl who was allegedly killed by her uncle, has been laid to rest.
On Tuesday, hundreds of mourners gathered together to say their final goodbyes to little Lizzy at Nyman Funeral Home in Providence on Tuesday.
The small child was buried in a tiny white coffin decorated with rainbow-colored butterflies and the words “Live Like Lizzy.”
“As we ‘Live Like Lizzy’ and continue to celebrate her, we know she is with us sitting on top of a rainbow with her beautiful rainbow wings,” Lizzy’s family wrote in her obituary.
Her loved ones asked that funeral attendees bring flowers to the service as Lizzy “loved to pick flowers.”
Lizzy grew so fond of the activity that her mother Jessica Whipple had to implement a rule that she could only pick one flower per yard, per day, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Her mother also said that when it was nighttime, Lizzy would become enamored with the sky. “Wow! The moon” Lizzy would say, according to her mom, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
While Lizzy’s mother is holding on to the memories of her daughter, she admits she’s overwhelmed with grief.
“You learn it isn’t about you anymore… and every day, you fall more and more in love,” Jessica said of her daughter to The Herald Journal.
“But I don’t think anyone prepares for the loss of a child, and when it surprises you, it is so so hard because you are never prepared,” Jessica added.
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Last week, Lizzy’s uncle was charged with her kidnapping and murder after telling authorities where to find her body, the man’s attorney told PEOPLE.
“He knows he’s involved in a very, very serious matter,” said Shannon Demler, the defense attorney for accused suspect Alex Whipple. “After I met with him for a few hours, he decided it would be best for everyone involved if he told the authorities the location of the body.”
Demler declined to elaborate further, or indicate how 21-year-old Whipple would plead to the charge in the alleged murder of his niece, who was reported missing from her family’s Logan City home Saturday, May 25.
“We’ve been negotiating with the county attorney’s office to resolve the matter,” he says. “We haven’t made a decision on how it’s all going to proceed at this point.”
Authorities announced the charges against Whipple at a news conference on May 29 before they had discovered the girl’s body. He was accused of aggravated murder, child kidnapping, obstruction of justice, and desecration of a body.
Logan City Police Chief Gary Jensen revealed at the news conference that authorities had uncovered various new pieces of evidence, including a broken knife with blood on it that allegedly matched a knife missing from Shelley’s home. They also found a teal skirt with blood on it; Whipple’s wristwatch and sweatshirt also allegedly had blood on them matching Shelley’s blood, he said.
Additionally, Jensen stated that they’d found a PVC pipe bearing a palm print that allegedly matched Whipple’s print.
Prior to the defense attorney’s confirmation to PEOPLE that the body had been located, Jill Parker of the Cache County Attorney’s Office released a statement on behalf of the girl’s family stating: “As a family we are overwhelmed, scared and sad at the recent tragic events that have touched our lives.”
Lizzy was reported missing Saturday after family members awoke around 9 a.m. to find her and Whipple, who’d arrived unexpectedly the night before, both gone from her Logan City home. She was last seen in the home around 2 a.m.
Police later encountered Whipple, who was on foot, around 3 p.m. Saturday about 10 miles away in a rural area of Cache County. He failed to identify himself to officers and had an outstanding warrant for his arrest for not checking in with probation officers. He was also in possession of drug paraphernalia, according to authorities.
Whipple’s criminal past includes a 2016 assault conviction involving domestic violence, and he was on probation for a 2017 conviction for drug possession and a separate 2017 case where he pleaded guilty after leading police on a chase in a stolen vehicle, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.
On May 25, Whipple was arrested on the probation violation and booked into the Cache County jail. The following Tuesday, he was ordered held without bail over the objection of his defense attorney, reports The Herald Journal.
When he was found by police, Whipple lied about his whereabouts and was uncooperative with authorities, said Budge. “He said he left around sunrise,” he said. “We don’t have any reason to believe anything he told us. His story changed quite a bit.”
The search by local, state and federal agencies proved a challenge before they were told exactly where to look. “She is a 40-pound little teeny girl and it is difficult,” Budge said before the body was located. “There is a lot of space to search. … He had a lot of hours alone and a lot of space alone.”
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