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Judge tells Utah man he’ll 'never breathe fresh air again’ while sentencing him to life in prison for murder of his 5-year-old niece

2019-09-26

A Utah man who pleaded guilty to the murder and sexual assault of his 5-year-old niece “will never see the light of day” again.

Judge Kevin K. Allen condemned Alex Whipple for inflicting an “incomprehensible” amount of fear on Elizabeth Shelley as he sentenced the girl’s uncle to life behind bars without possibility of parole, Fox News reported.

“You will never breathe fresh air again,” Allen told Whipple. “What you did was so abhorrent and vile that you must spend the rest of your life in prison.”

Elizabeth, who often went by Lizzy, was reported missing by her mother, who awoke the morning of May 25 to find her daughter had vanished, according to court documents. Whipple, who she invited to spend the night in their Logan home, had also seemingly disappeared.

Authorities discovered Whipple walking by himself around 3 p.m. the same afternoon and arrested him for violating parole on a previous charge of stolen property and driving under the influence. Several days later, police revealed they’d uncovered strong forensic evidence linking Whipple to Lizzy’s disappearance and he was charged with capital murder.

Eventually, Whipple provided investigators with a hand-drawn map to his niece’s remains and prosecutors in exchange, did not seek out the death penalty. He pleaded guilty in September to an aggravated murder charge, child kidnapping, rape of a child and sodomy of a child.

In court papers filed ahead of the sentencing, Cache County Attorney James Swink detailed some of the injuries Lizzy experienced before her tragic death, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

According to a medical examiner, she experienced trauma to her face, head and back. Her cause of death, the examiner determined, was a stab wound in the back.

There was also significant trauma to victim’s genitals in addition to DNA evidence suggesting Whipple sexually assaulted her.

“Lizzy’s last minutes of life,” Swink wrote, “were undoubtedly marked by pain, terror and confusion.”