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Man accused of killing niece makes first court appearance

File photo, credit: Eli Lucero, Pool)

LOGAN, Utah – A very quick initial court appearance for the man accused of murdering his five-year-old niece in Logan.  Today is also the same day viewings for little Lizzy Shelley begin.

Prosecutors say they wanted today to be about Lizzy, not about the man who they believe killed her.

Alex Whipple stood silent, dressed in his black and white stripes, as the judge told him about the charges against him, which include aggravated murder, child kidnapping and abuse of a body.  The courtroom was as full as seating would allow.

Judge Kevin Allen denied bail to Whipple and gave his defense team until the 24th of June to decide if they want to go through a preliminary hearing, or not.  The judge did not set a potential date for that.

Outside of the courtroom, Cache County Attorney James Swink thanked all of the workers who found the evidence they needed to file charges even before the body was found roughly half a block away from her home.  Swink didn’t want to make many comments about what happened in court.

“The biggest priority isn’t about court or the case, so much.  It’s about the family,” he says.

Swink says the entire county is still reeling from the murder.

He adds, “All of the people who have worked this case, the hundreds of people that helped with this case, from law enforcement to volunteers to victim advocates, all of those people are in mourning.”

The Cache County Attorney’s Office will fight to get the maximum penalty they can get, but, a potential death sentence was taken off the table to convince Whipple to divulge where he left the girl’s body.

“The state will look forward to never letting this person out of prison, ever.  We look to lock him up for the rest of his life,” Swink says.

Defense attorneys say it’s too soon for them to know if they’ll ask for the preliminary hearing.  Shannon Demler, Whipple’s attorney, says there is still a lot of information they don’t have access to.

“I don’t think the state even has things such as the autopsy report and the lab reports.  We’ll want to get copies of all of those,” Demler says.

However, Demler says they’ve been working with the county attorney’s office to resolve the case as soon as possible.

“[He wants to] resolve this and get this put behind him and everyone else as soon as we can, but we need to review the evidence before we can make those determinations.  We’ll be looking to do that before the 24th.”

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