Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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May 29, 2010

2 face murder charge

Utah couple could get death penalty in 4-year-old’s slaying

FARMINGTON, Utah — Felony charges including aggravated murder, which could carry the death penalty, were filed Friday against a mother and stepfather who allegedly beat a 4-year-old boy until he died, then disfigured and buried the body.

Nathanael Sloop, 31 and Stephanie Sloop, 27, of Layton, Utah were charged in Davis County with aggravated murder, child abuse, obstruction of justice and abuse or desecration of a body relating to the death of Stephanie Sloop’s son, 4-year-old Ethan Stacy. The child’s disfigured body was found May 11 in a hidden grave. He had been on a court ordered summertime visit that was part of a divorce settlement made in Florida with his biological father, Joe G. Stacy of Richlands, Va.

If prosecutors file a Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty is filed, the Sloops both could face the death penalty, life imprisonment without parole or an indeterminate sentence of 25 years to life. The penalty is life without parole or an indeterminate term of 20 years to life if Utah authorities decide not to seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors have 60 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

County Attorney Troy Rawlings told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph that his office had received an autopsy report, but he declined to release any additional details, citing the fact that his office was still preparing the case.

“We respect the public’s desire for information,” prosecutors said in a statement issued to Utah media and the Daily Telegraph. “However, as a result of the filing of formal charging documents today, criminal cases are now pending against both defendants that may end in our office seeking the most serious and ultimate penalty. Therefore, we will not discuss the facts in any forum other than court proceedings.”

The Sloops are currently being held in the Davis County Jail without bond.

On May 10, Stephanie Sloop contacted the Layton Police Department and reported that Ethan had wandered away from her apartment. After an extensive search and questioning, Utah authorities were led to a possible burial site in the area of Powder Mountain near the Eden community. The child’s body was discovered there.

Video photographs found on Stephanie Sloop’s cell phone by Layton police and interviews with Nathanael Sloop showed a “progressively more violent pattern of abuse toward Ethan,” investigators said in a probable cause affidavit filed May 11.

Stephanie Sloop said she did not seek medical help for her son “because Nate would harm her if she tried to do so.”

Investigators have alleged that Nathanael Sloop disfigured the boy’s face and teeth with a hammer in order to hinder identification, and that Stephanie Sloop purchased two cans of lighter fluid so the body could be burned.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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