Ravell Call , Deseret News
LAYTON — His mother said her 4-year-old son had a habit of wandering out of their apartment in the middle of the night.
But police don't believe that was ever the case. Instead, detectives believe Ethan Stacy's stepfather killed him, and then he and the boy's mother tried to cover it up.
Ethan had been in Utah just 10 days. He'd been in Virginia with his father and arrived to spend the summer with his mother and his new stepfather. His mother and stepfather had just gotten married on May 6.
Nearly 17 hours after his mother reported him missing from their Layton apartment, Ethan's body was found buried more than 30 miles away in a remote area near Powder Mountain.
Just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, five officers were seen carrying a large blue tarp folded in two down the mountain with the body of Ethan inside.
Nathan Sloop, 31, was arrested for investigation of aggravated murder, child abuse, obstruction of justice and desecration of a corpse. Stephanie Sloop, 27, was arrested for investigation of child abuse, obstruction of justice and desecration of a corpse.
Police say they contacted Ethan's biological father in Virginia and informed him of the tragedy. Authorities did not release his name.
The announcement of the arrests capped a long and heartbreaking day for police officers who had searched throughout the night for the blond-haired, blue-eyed boy with glasses, allegedly last seen wearing Spider-Man pajamas.
"Anytime you get a case involving a child like this, it makes you wonder how that happens," Layton Police Lt. Garret Atkin said.
Investigators did not say Tuesday how, when or why Ethan was killed, but Atkin noted they do not believe his death was premeditated. Police believe that after Ethan was killed, his body was driven to a remote area about 11 miles up Ogden Canyon near Wolf Creek Resort and Powder Mountain, past Pine?view Reservoir, about 200 yards off the main canyon road in a heavily wooded area close to a dirt access road owned by Powder Mountain Ski Resort.
Investigators wearing yellow raincoats and carrying evidence bags and shovels focused on the specific area Tuesday afternoon.
"Due to the weather and terrain, it (was) a very difficult crime scene to process," Atkin said.
Police were originally contacted by the boy's parents at 11:55 p.m. Monday. They said Ethan had gotten out of bed and wandered off again without them noticing.
Officers went door-to-door in the apartment complex asking if tenants had seen anything, checked trash bins, vehicles, storage sheds and area businesses. Police dogs aided in the search, and night vision equipment was used to help search for the boy. Reverse 911 calls were made in the area, and known sex offenders in the area were also questioned, Atkin said.
About 3 a.m., tenants said police knocked on all the apartment doors again, this time asking to conduct a thorough search of each unit.
Residents said the Sloops had just recently moved into the apartment complex.
"They checked the washer, the dryer, lower cupboards, the bathroom — that's good though," said neighbor Steve Haynes.
One neighbor who lives in an apartment adjacent to the Sloops said she was painting inside her house and saw police arrive, searching through her apartment.
"I didn't sleep all night long thinking about that poor boy," said Tracy, who asked to be identified by her first name only. "I saw the stepdad walking around (Tuesday). He looked upset."
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