A Utah man has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of his 5-year-old niece earlier this year, according to reports.
Alex Whipple, 22, pleaded guilty to a slew of charges related to the death of Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley, who was reported missing by Whipple’s sister on May 25.
Whipple was arrested hours later and eventually agreed to tell detectives where they could find her body as long as prosecutors didn’t pursue the death penalty.
“Mr. Whipple, the time has come for you to begin to pay what you did,” said Judge Kevin Allen on Tuesday, which was reported by the Cache Valley Daily newspaper. “You will never see the light of day. You will never breathe free air again. I am genuinely sorry for you. This tragedy touches everyone, even you. What you did was so abhorrent and vile that you must spend the rest of your life in prison, away from the victims, and away from this community that you unspeakably terrorized.”
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The community was horrified as details of the girl’s death began to emerge.
The medical examiner stated the girl was raped and sodomized before Whipple slashed her neck and stabbed her in the chest with a kitchen knife, according to another report. He pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and child kidnapping, among other charges.
At Whipple’s sentencing, several family members talked about Lizzy’s love of nature and the “colors of the rainbow,” according to the report.
Lizzy’s mother Jessica Black, who is Whipple’s sister, did not attend the sentencing. Instead, she gave a brief statement outside the courthouse.
“For our family, our lives will never be the same,” said Black. “We will never forget our sweet girl and the happiness and the sunshine she brought us. Staying in the present and remembering Lizzy’s love is what I’m trying hard to do each day. Every day is a process of surviving and not getting overwhelmed by my memories.”
An attempt to reach Whipple’s public defender was unsuccessful.