LAYTON — On May 6, Nathan and Stephanie Sloop went to the Davis County Courthouse to get married.
What no one in the courtroom could have imagined was that while the Sloops were being joined in holy matrimony, Stephanie Sloop's 4-year-old son was locked in a bedroom in their Layton home. The Sloops were afraid to take Ethan Stacy out in public because of severe head injuries allegedly inflicted by Nathan in what jail records described as a "systematic and progressively more violent pattern of abuse toward Ethan."
The documents written by investigators were released late Wednesday and paint an extremely disturbing picture of the last days of the young boy's life. His body was found buried near Powder Mountain Ski Resort Tuesday after his mother initially told police he had wandered off and was missing.
The injuries to Ethan's face were so significant that the Sloops "were afraid to take him out in public with the swelling and bruising to his face and that someone would call police," according to probable cause affidavits written to justify jailing the couple.
Police say Nathan Sloop "removed the door handle from the bedroom" to keep Ethan locked inside while they were gone.
Stephanie Sloop told police Nathan severely beat Ethan on May 5, the affidavits state.
Between May 5-8, Ethan "exhibited signs and symptoms of a possible head injury or brain swelling due to a head injury," Stephanie Sloop told police Tuesday while being interviewed about her son's death. Ethan did not eat well, was vomiting, lethargic and exhibited non-responsive behavior, according to the reports.
"Stephanie told us she never got medical attention for Ethan, even though she knew that medical attention was needed," detectives wrote.
Stephanie took cell phone pictures documenting the increased swelling. Police say Nathan Sloop originally told them it was due to a peanut allergy.
On the day after the wedding, Stephanie Sloop said her new husband called her while she was shopping to say that Ethan had burned himself in a hot tub of water. When she returned, she said Ethan was badly burned on his feet, legs and buttocks and she believed Nathan Sloop intentionally burned him, the affidavit states.
She also told police she noticed feces in the child's mouth and she brushed his mouth until his gums bled. The next day, she said, Ethan had smeared his feces on the bathroom walls and on his step-father and she found feces in his mouth again, detectives wrote.
Sunday morning, on Mother's Day, the Sloops found Ethan dead in his bed.
They then "worked together to formulate a plan to dispose of the body and deceive law enforcement," the documents state. The boy's body was wrapped in plastic garbage bags and taped up. The Sloops drove to Powder Mountain, where he was buried and other evidence was burned at the gravesite.
"Mr. Sloop said he buried Ethan and brought Mrs. Sloop to the site to say her goodbyes," according to the affidavits. "They also took intentional steps to try and deface and disfigure Ethan's body in an effort to delay identification."
Jail records say Nathan Sloop used a hammer to purposely try to disfigure Ethan's face and teeth. He then allegedly obtained unidentified chemicals to destroy potential evidence. Stephanie Sloop told police she was told to buy two cans of lighter fluid.
Homicide detectives say a pattern of increasingly violent abuse toward Ethan "was done in a manner that was recklessly indifferent to the child's welfare."
After reviewing the documents Wednesday, a judge denied bail for Nathan Sloop and set $100,000 bail for Stephanie Sloop.
Father was reluctant to send him Utah
Joe G. Stacy said he never wanted to send his 4-year-old son to Utah.
But after a custody fight, a judge ordered summer visitation with the boy's mother and he had to comply, said Freida Stacy, Joe Stacy's stepmother.
"Joe absolutely did not want him to go (to Utah), and she threatened to sue him for kidnapping, threatened him with this and that. He had no choice," Freida Stacy told the Deseret News.
"Ethan did not want to go. Ethan did not want to even talk to (his mother Stephanie Sloop) on the phone. She'd call and he'd say, 'I don't want to talk to her,' " Freida Stacy said from her home in Hurley, Va.
"She was just an evil person. There is evil in the world, and she is that."
Joe Stacy received a full briefing about his son's death Wednesday.
"I can't talk right now. I just got the horrible news, talking to prosecutors," the Tazewell, Va., man said. "Right now is not the time."
Charges likely Friday
Prosecutors planned to hold a news conference Friday to announce formal charges against the Sloops. Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said his office was still waiting Wednesday for the autopsy report on Ethan and was compiling additional evidence from Layton police.
Nathan Sloop was booked Tuesday into the Davis County Jail for investigation of aggravated murder. He and Stephanie Sloop were both booked for investigation of child abuse, obstruction of justice and desecration of a corpse.
When prosecutors meet, Nathan Sloop could face an additional charge. Police say he kicked and damaged a holding cell door Tuesday at the Layton Police Department.
Ethan's biological parents, Joe Stacy and Stephanie Sloop, were married in Florida and lived there and in Georgia. Ethan was the only child they had together.
Freida Stacy called Ethan a "loving little boy who could have accomplished anything. He was a go-getter."
But she believes Stephanie Sloop used the 4-year-old boy as a pawn to hurt her ex-husband.
"She was a spiteful person. It's not shocking she did it. It's shocking it happened," Freida Stacy said. "I don't think she cared anything for that little boy. I think she did anything she could to irritate (Joe)."
'Match made in heaven'
The wedding announcement page on the Internet for Stephanie and Nathan Sloop talks about love and being soul mates. The page, which was taken down Thursday, contains photos of the couple and an announcement that they planned to either get married or hold a wedding reception on July 4. A marriage certificate for the couple, however, confirms they were married May 6.
On the page, Nathan Sloop wrote that he and Stephanie had known each other since childhood but only recently began dating. They dated while he was going through a divorce in which he claimed his child was being "kidnapped and being in the middle of a vicious divorce," he wrote.
Nathan Sloop called his relationship with Stephanie a "match made in heaven" and wrote that she was the "woman of my dreams." He described himself as having a "fast thinking brain" and said she respected his "bad boy side."
"I Would Do Anything for her. Fight for Her. Kill for Her. Live for Her!! Die for Her!!," he wrote.
In her comments, she wrote when they first started dating, "We began with full disclosure so that way our exes couldn't try and use things against us," she wrote. "Someone else's garbage is now my treasure," and "Though I loved my ex, we just weren't meant to fit together like Nathan and I do."
She wrote she had complications during surgery while pregnant with twins, but does not say what happened to the twins.
The couple has been together since October, according to their wedding announcement. A reception was to have been held in Golden, Colo., at the home of one of Nathan Sloop's relatives.
A former neighbor told the Deseret News that just days ago she saw the Sloops, including Ethan, return to Nathan Sloop's Roy house, which is now up for sale, to move more items.
"I saw that little boy carrying toys out," said Rheta Phillips, who lived next door to Nathan Sloop for about seven years. "To think (Ethan) had just days to live, it's unbelievable."
Phillips, who said her family had an often-confrontational relationship with Nathan Sloop, described him as "unpredictable," and said "you never knew which way he would blow."
The house on 2200 West in Roy is up for sale and his real estate agent said Nathan and Stephanie Sloop moved sometime before the house was put up for sale in March because they were seeking a new job in Denver.
Utah court records show Nathan Sloop has a criminal history in Utah. In 2003, he pleaded guilty to drug possession with intent to distribute, a charge that was amended from a felony to a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 30 days in the Weber County Jail and put on probation. He was also found guilty of a separate misdemeanor drug possession charge about that same time. He was off probation at the time of his arrest Tuesday.
In 2001, he was convicted of disorderly conduct and criminal mischief, and in a separate case a few months later, he was convicted again of disorderly conduct and failure to obey a peace officer, according to court records.
More than 100 people — including many children — gathered Wednesday night at a courtyard at 586 W. 1425 North in Layton where Ethan had lived for a little more than a week. Many held candles while others — some who had seen him in the apartment complex and others who never knew him — offered heartfelt words of sorrow and consolation and hope that Ethan is in a better place. Others hoped his death serves as a warning that neighbors need to be involved in watching out for the welfare of children everywhere.
"I'm a mom, too. I just can't imagine — not in a million years would I let someone hurt my kids," said Barbara Goff, of North Ogden. After hearing the cruel details about Ethan's death, she brought roses and a stuffed animal to a makeshift memorial for Ethan outside his apartment door.141 comments on this story
Brittany Rogers, 20, of Layton, had helped search for the boy Tuesday. She returned Wednesday night to mourn with fellow neighbors.
"I can't understand what went through their minds to harm a 4-year-old boy," she said. She has a boyfriend and plans to get married soon, but said, "I'd kill him before I let him harm my son."
Candiace Haynes, who lives in a nearby apartment, wiped away tears as she spoke of the tragedy.
"It's so sad. He had a full life ahead of him. It's just a tragedy he was hurt the way he was."
Contributing: Lana Groves