Staff and wire reports
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. —
Prosecutors in Utah announced Friday that they plan to seek the death penalty against a man charged with beating to death his 4-year-old stepson from Tazewell County, Va., disfiguring his face with a hammer and then burying the body in the northern Utah mountains.
The notice from Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings came in a court filing Thursday against Nathanael Sloop, 33, who is accused of beating Ethan Stacy for days before his death in May 2010. Prosecutors have long said they were inclined to seek the death penalty if Sloop is convicted at trial, but they have consistently refused to state their intentions for Stephanie Sloop, the boy’s biological mother.
Stephanie Sloop will face a separate trial and is accused of contributing to her son’s death or failing to stop it, according to the Associated Press.
The Sloops were newlyweds when they were charged with aggravated murder, second-degree felony child abuse, second-degree felony obstruction of justice and desecration of a body. Investigators and prosecutors have not revealed a motive.
Tammy Childress, the sister-in-law of Joe G. Stacy, Ethan’s biological father, heard the news about prosecutors’ decision for the first time Friday evening.
“I’m a little shocked, but I’m very happy. It seems like it’s dragged on for so long,” Tammy Childress told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph after hearing the news. “It’s been very hard. It’s been going on and on. There’s been no closure.”
Joe G. Stacy said he was forced to give up Ethan during summer as part of a divorce and custody battle. Ethan died 10 days after his arrival in Utah. Authorities there say he was beaten, malnourished and left behind one day as Nathanael and Stephanie Sloop went to get married. Joe Stacy was not available for additional comment Friday.
The Sloops have been held at the Davis County Jail without bail since they were arrested in 2010.
On May 10, 2010, Stephanie Sloop contacted the Layton Police Department and reported that her son had wandered away from her apartment. After an extensive search and questioning, Utah authorities found a possible burial site in the vicinity of Powder Mountain near the Eden community. The boy’s body was discovered there.
Nathanael Sloop pleaded not guilty to the charges in July. He is scheduled to appear Dec. 14 in 2nd District Court in Davis County, Utah.
Stephanie Sloop, who has not yet been arraigned, has a separate hearing set for Dec. 14. She filed in June 2010 for a marriage annulment, but later withdrew the petition to keep details of her marriage from The Salt Lake Tribune, which won the right to inspect the court files.
A change in Utah law sealed all divorce and annulment pleadings in April, but court dockets show no renewed filings by Stephanie Sloop, according to the Associated Press. Court clerks confirmed Friday that the couple is still legally married.