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Grim tally: Officers investigate 48 Utah homicides in 2010, including 11 children

4 Utah law enforcers were also killed last year

Published: Sunday, Jan. 2 2011 10:06 p.m. MST

Aaron Thorup, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — On paper, from a statistical standpoint, the homicide rate in Utah in 2010 appeared to mostly remain steady, with just a slight increase.

But when the severity of some of the crimes is considered, and when other deaths that did not "count" as homicides are taken into consideration — such as officer-involved shootings — some would argue that 2010 was still a disturbingly violent year in Utah.

 A 4-year-old boy who was only in Utah a few days and known by practically no one in that brief time, captured the hearts of the entire state following his particularly violent and disturbing death.

 Funerals were held for four Utah law enforcers killed in the line of duty, including two who were gunned down.

 In many cases, the suspect and victim were acquainted or related to each other, such as a father, son, boyfriend or former mother-in-law.

 Eleven times in Utah last year, police officers shot and killed people to prevent their own deaths or the deaths of others. One man was also legally executed by a firing squad of officers.

Five of the top 10 stories selected by Deseret News readers as the top news stories of 2010 involved murder or tragic death.

The Deseret News counted 48 Utah homicides in 2010. That's higher than the 39 homicides recorded in both 2009 and 2008 by the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification. The BCI, however, doesn't include all homicides in its list. It counts only first-degree felony homicides and manslaughter in its statistics and does not tally homicides committed on federal land, for example.

The Deseret News counts most felony homicides in its statistics, including child-abuse homicide and negligent homicide, killings on federal land and incidents that were originally charged as murder, even if the defendant pleaded to a lesser charge in court.

Neither the BCI nor the Deseret News included automobile homicides from vehicle accidents and DUIs, officer-involved shootings or executions. Those are treated as separate classifications.

Difficult Davis year

In May, police and neighbors searched tirelessly for a missing 4-year-old boy. Ethan Stacy had only been in Utah a short time, being sent to stay with his biological mother in Layton for the summer. Ethan's father reluctantly sent his son from Virginia to stay with his mother under pressure of a court order.

As the search progressed, however, it became apparent to investigators that Ethan's mother, Stephanie Sloop, and her husband of less than a week, Nathan Sloop, were lying about Ethan wandering off in the middle of the night.

As the Sloops' story rapidly unfolded, an extremely disturbing scenario emerged of a young boy who was constantly abused, then killed, his body desecrated and buried in a shallow grave in a remote area near Powder Mountain.

The horrific death of Ethan sparked an outcry from people around the nation who were shocked by the boy's brutal death. The Sloops were each charged with capital murder and could each face the death penalty if convicted.

While the community was still healing from the Ethan Stacy tragedy, another shocking crime occurred in Layton, just four months later, in September. The bodies of a brother and sister, 8-year-old James Warhola and 7-year-old Jean Warhola, were discovered on their beds by their father when he arrived home from work. Their mother, Sun Cha Warhola, was charged with two counts of capital murder. Investigators believe the cause of death for each child was strangulation.

In addition to Ethan Stacy and the Warhola children, Layton police were also called in February to investigate the deaths of 4-year-old Rebecca Toone and her 15-month-old sister, Rachel, who died from inhaling toxic fumes after a pest control worker allegedly applied rat poison too close to their home.

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