LOGAN, Utah (AP) – A 5-year-old girl who authorities have said was killed by her uncle was remembered Tuesday as a kind and patient child who loved walking barefoot through tall grass.
Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley was buried in a small white coffin painted with rainbow-colored butterflies and the words “Live like Lizzy.”
For her family, that means looking for beauty in weeds as well as flowers, and taking time to gaze in wonder at the moon.
Her mother Jessica Whipple remembered how Lizzy looked the first time she decided to ride her bike down a big hill near their house. Her mother worried she’d flip over, but Lizzy wasn’t afraid.
“It was just so brave and beautiful,” Whipple said.
Lizzy’s life ended last month, when Alex Whipple, 21, took her from her home and killed her after his sister let him stay the night, police have said.
Whipple’s fiance Detrich Black helped raise Lizzy, and said Tuesday that the girl never wandered away when they walked together, whether hiking in the mountains or sniffing scented candles at the grocery store.
“She was always so careful to stay close and always made sure she could see me,” he said.
She also loved ladybugs, even when they invaded the family home, and collected rocks, sticks and flowers on nature walks. Lizzy was known to take off her shoes to run through grass, puddles or streams, said her aunt Bonnie Black.
“If you were to walk along the street with her and pluck a leaf from a tree to give to her, she would accept it as though she were accepting a beautiful bouquet of flowers,” she said, remembering a Christmas where Lizzy shared her extra gifts with her cousins.
Her frantic parents reported her missing on May 25, touching off search in Logan, a small city set into picturesque mountains north of Salt Lake City.
Her uncle also went missing. But he was found within hours, while the search for Lizzy continued for five days.
Alex Whipple eventually told police where to found the child’s body – in woods less than block from her house – after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.
Authorities have said they found the girl’s blood on Whipple’s clothing, and a bloody, broken knife from the family’s kitchen near where the body was hidden. He is charged with aggravated murder, child kidnapping and other counts.
Defense attorney Shannon Demler has said his client did something inexcusable but wanted the family to find closure.
During the funeral services, Lizzy’s family spoke not of how she died but of the beauty she found in her short life. Many had rainbow pins and a few wore butterfly wings to remember her free spirit.
“Life can be cruel, but today we are united in love to live like Lizzy” said the girl’s aunt, Liesel Black.