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Nathan Sloop's own words describe ugly abuse before 4-year-old's death

Defense says Ethan Stacy died from overmedication, not severe abuse

Published: Wednesday, March 27 2013 7:12 p.m. MDT

Ethan Stacy, 4, was allegedly killed by his stepfather and mother while living in Layton.

August Miller, Deseret News

FARMINGTON — Nathan Sloop and his new wife, Stephanie, believed they needed to "break" her 4-year-old son, Ethan Stacy. 

The discussion was part of a series of disturbing text messages between the couple that was read in 2nd District Court Wednesday during the first day of a three-day preliminary hearing for Nathan Sloop, 34. Both face capital murder and other charges in the boy's death.

"I told you we had a pit bull on our hands, but they learn," Nathan Sloop messaged Stephanie Sloop on May 3, 2010. 

"Just like Mommy LOL," she replied.

"I told you we had to break his ego," Nathan Sloop said. 

Later, on May 5: "He is broke that's for sure," Nathan Sloop wrote. "We got to figure out how to keep him in his room."  

Six days later, the boy's body was found buried in the mountains of Weber County.

Prosecutor David Cole said it was Sloops' "reckless indifference to human life" that caused the boy's death. He said Ethan was scalded, beaten, overmedicated and not given the medical care that he needed.

But defense attorneys told 2nd District Judge Glen Dawson for the first time on Wednesday that Ethan didn't die of severe abuse, but because of dehydration from overmedication.

The 4-year-old Layton boy was given too much Benadryl, Tylenol and decongestant, attorney Richard Mauro said.

Nathan Sloop wasn't on the stand Wednesday, but his own words were read and played in court from recorded phone calls, taped police interviews and transcripts of interviews.

In phone calls with his mother and ex-wife played in court, Nathan Sloop claimed that Ethan's father had taught the child to misbehave in an effort to hurt Stephanie Sloop. He told police that Stephanie Sloop thought that her ex-husband, Joe Stacy, "destroyed my boy" and told Nathan Sloop to "teach him to be a man" by beating him or "whatever it took to get her boy back." 

"Stephanie didn't want to discipline him," Sloop said in one police interview. "She would go out and smoke a cigarette and say, 'You take care of him.'"

Nathan Sloop told police he would slap the child, make him stand with his nose against the wall and once pushed him into scalding water. The boy's mother, he said, would also yell and hit him.

"Stephanie, she has a very, very nasty, angry side," Sloop told officers in one video.

Sloop described an incident involving both him and Stephanie putting feces into Ethan's mouth after the boy smeared it on Nathan Sloop. He also said he never took the child to the emergency room, intervened in any of Stephanie Sloop's alleged beatings or reported the beatings.

"(Ethan) had seen things and heard things that a 4-year-old, 5-year-old boy should never see or hear," Nathan Sloop said.

Just a week before his death in May of 2010, Ethan arrived in Utah from Virginia to spend the summer with his mother and her then-fiance as the terms of her divorce required. Ethan's father, Joe Stacy, had expressed concerns about sending him to Utah, saying in court documents that the boy's mother was "unstable" and he feared she would "take him and I'll never see him again."

In one recorded phone conversation, Sloop's ex-wife reminded Sloop that he had described Ethan as "a poltergeist." He also told his mother in a jail phone call that the child was "poison" that sunk his relationship with Stephanie Sloop "like a battleship." 

He said the boy was disobedient and misbehaved, often sneaking from his room and turning on video games or going to the refrigerator. 

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