FARMINGTON, Utah – FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) — Aggravated murder charges were filed Friday against the mother and stepfather of a 4-year old boy who police said was beaten to death then disfigured and buried in the mountains.
Stephanie Sloop, 27, and Nathanael Sloop, 31, did not enter pleas during their initial court appearance. They were being held without bail in the death of Ethan Stacy.
Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said a decision had not yet been made about whether to seek the death penalty, although the case was heading in that direction. Prosecutors have 60 days to make the determination.
Attorneys for the Sloops declined to comment because new lawyers qualified to represent death penalty defendants were expected to be appointed at a June 4 hearing.
Searchers dug up Stacy's disfigured body May 11 — 10 days after he arrived in Utah from Virginia for a summer visit with his mother.
The county attorney's office said the Sloops also were charged with child abuse, obstruction of justice and abuse or desecration of a body. All are felonies.
"The criminal acts included beatings, burning, drugging, isolating, malnourishing, leaving the child alone and unattended while suffering, and refusing to seek vital life-sustaining medical attention," the charges state.
Police records said Stephanie Sloop told investigators she bought two cans of lighter fluid for Nathanael Sloop to burn the body before it was buried. The reports didn't say whether that was actually done.
Ethan Stacy's body was returned to his father, Joe Stacy, and buried last week in Virginia. A message left with Joe Stacy was not immediately returned.
Authorities alleged that Nathanael Sloop beat the boy for days then used a hammer to disfigure his face and teeth to make him unrecognizable before burying his body.
Stephanie Sloop initially told police her son had wandered from home. She later said she didn't seek help for Ethan because she feared her new husband would hurt her, police said.