LAYTON, Utah – LAYTON, Utah (AP) — Hundreds of Utahns gathered for a 10-mile walk to honor a 4-year-old Virginia boy whose badly beaten body was dug up from a Utah mountainside grave nearly two weeks ago.
Ethan Stacy's mother and stepfather are being held in the case, and prosecutors have said the couple will likely be charged with aggravated murder in the boy's death.
Authorities have alleged that the stepfather, Nathan Sloop, beat the boy for days, then used a hammer to disfigure his face and teeth before burying his body.
On Saturday, about 400 people marched the 10.3-mile route from the Sloop's Layton apartment complex to the Davis County Justice Center — a gesture organizers say was intended as a symbolic call for justice for a child most here had never met.
"This is all too little and way too late, but maybe this is the bit of good that can be had from this whole sorry mess," said Calvin Cain, a father of three who strode purposefully near the middle of the pack.
"It's the kind of thing you can't make sense of, and you don't want to, because you don't want to believe anyone could do something like that to a child," he said.
Ethan, who had been in Utah for a summer visit with his mother, was buried Wednesday near his father's home in Richlands, Va.
Prosecutors have been waiting for an official cause of death to be determined by the medical examiner, but are expected to file charges on Friday.
They have alleged that Sloop beat Ethan until he was unconscious, failed to get the boy medical help and then used a hammer on the child's face before burying him so that it would be more difficult to identify the body.
The boy's mother, Stephanie Sloop, initially told police her son had wandered from home. She later said she failed to seek help for Ethan because she feared her new husband would hurt her.
For Tara Cooper, Saturday's walk was a reminder of the abuse she herself once lived with.
A boyfriend who showed no hint of violence shook Cooper's daughter so fiercely when she was 15-months-old that the infant suffered severe brain injuries. Now 13, Cooper said her daughter has mental capacity of a 5-year-old and will never live independently.
"But she is in every way our angel," Cooper said. "So is Ethan, he's just not here anymore. But he won't be forgotten, and we hope this just reminds people that justice must be served on his behalf. We must not forget."
Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com