Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 20, 2013

Doctors says 4-year-old Stacy severely burned by water prior to death

Staff & wire reports

FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) — A burn specialist said Friday that a 4-year-old Tazewell County, Va., boy whose stepfather is accused of beating him to death suffered severe and painful hot water burns that contributed to his death.

Prosecutors say the stepfather — Nathanael Sloop, 34 — and his wife, Stephanie Sloop, malnourished and abused Ethan Stacy, Stephanie Sloop’s biological son, over several weeks until he died in May 2010, and then took a hammer to his face to make him unrecognizable before burying his body in the mountains near Eden, Utah.

Dr. Jeffrey Saffle said in a preliminary hearing that the burns left Ethan Stacy with second- and third-degree burns on his feet and legs, the Standard-Examiner of Ogden reported Friday.

Saffle says recovering from the burns would have required skin grafts and three weeks in the hospital. He said some of the skin had blistered and fallen off. The burns would have left the boy dehydrated and nauseous.

The testimony came during the fourth day of preliminary hearings in a case that has been widely followed across the state. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against Nathanael Sloop, who pleaded not guilty to the charges last year.

Stephanie Sloop is also accused of contributing to her son’s death and is awaiting trial.   

The proceedings are scheduled to continue on June 20 with oral arguments from attorneys.

During the first three days of preliminary hearing last month, Dr. Edward Leis testified that burns on Ethan’s feet and the back of his legs were likely from hot water in a bathtub.

Leis, a medical examiner, testified that Ethan died from a combination of too many over-the-counter medications, severe burns and pneumonia.

Sloop’s attorneys said the boy had been given Benadryl, Tylenol and decongestant. But a toxicologist testified that a regular, adult-sized dose of the anti-anxiety medication Xanax was also found in Ethan’s body. The drug is not supposed to be used by children.

The boy died 10 days after his arrival in Utah from his birth father’s home across country. The birth father, Joe G. Stacy, of Tazewell, Va., has said he was forced to give up Ethan during the summers as part of a divorce and custody arrangement.

The case began May 10, 2010, when the Layton Police Department received a call about a missing boy. Stephanie Sloop said her son had snuck out of the home on previous occasions. Local law enforcement agencies conducted an extensive search.

After interviewing Nathanael Sloop, investigators determined that Ethan Stacy “was in fact, deceased,” according to a probable cause affidavit filed May 11, 2010.

“As part of the interview process, photographs and video images of Ethan were discovered on Mrs. Sloop’s cell phone. Those photos showed a progression of injuries to the child on the head and facial area,” according to the report.

Nathanael Sloop indicated that the swelling seen in the photos was the result of a peanut allergy. Subsequent interviews with the couple “indicated that in fact these injuries were the result of Mr. Sloop engaging in a systematic and progressively more violent pattern of abuse toward Ethan,” investigators said in their May 2010 report.