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 2:05 p.m. MDT

Photos of the boy en route to Utah showed no obvious injuries, but photos taken once he was in Utah showed redness and swelling, said Layton Police Sgt. Jeff Roderick. He said there were also traces of blood found on the wall of Ethan's room, believed to be from the boy's nose rubbing against the wall.

In one short video, Ethan is seen with his hair mussed and in his pajamas. "I'm having fun with Nathan," he said. "He's not scary anymore."

Prosecutors zoomed in on the boy's face, where there was some redness on one of his cheeks.

In an audio recording played in court, Nathan Sloop can be heard asking Ethan numerous times whether he wanted to stay in Utah or return to live with his father in Virginia. He repeatedly asked the boy if his father was mean or hurt him.

"Where do you want to live?" Sloop asked again.

The boy's voice came through his tears, a croaking wheeze: "My mom, my mom, my mom."

Police and prosecutors list "severe abuse" as the cause of the boy's death and say he was abused between April 29 and May 8, 2010.

Stephanie Sloop initially reported to police on May 11 that her child had gone missing. In a 911 call that was played in court, Sloop said she had woken up in the middle of the night to find both the front door and Ethan's bedroom door open. She told the dispatcher it was the fifth time Ethan had gotten out of bed during the night and the third time he had left their Layton apartment.

Roderick said he was among those who responded in the early morning hours that day and interviewed the couple. Stephanie Sloop mostly talked about an abusive ex-husband.

"She had a hard time staying on track about Ethan," Roderick testified.

The couple was taken to the police department for additional interviews and Stephanie Sloop "started to give indications that there was a body," the sergeant said. Nathan Sloop said that once he heard the words directly from Stephanie, he would tell police where the body was, Roderick said.

Nathan Sloop led investigators to a trailhead near Powder Mountain in Weber County and took them to a burial site off of the trail that had been sprinkled with dog food. He was then taken back to the police station.

Roderick said the burial site was "in layers" and he identified a number of items that were found in the dirt, including a curtain, lighter fluid, a shovel head, a broken hammer, melted ammonia packaging, a burned glove, Ethan's "Florida" sweatshirt and his body, wrapped in black plastic garbage bags.

Roderick said the medical examiner determined that Ethan was burned over 17 percent of his body from the scalding incident. Water temperatures in the apartment could reach around 152 degrees, the sergeant said.

The Sloops took the boy to a chiropractor, who apparently recommended honey for the boy's wounds, according to court testimony.

The autopsy report also listed bruising injuries to the child's privates, which Nathan Sloop initially said, in a police video, were caused by scratching. He then said the injuries were there when the boy arrived before saying they were a result of the way the child sat on the toilet.

Sloop also told police he didn't discipline the boy any more harshly than his own father had disciplined him.

"(I was) certainly not intending to hurt or abuse the child," he said.

Before Ethan was buried, prosecutors said his face had been disfigured. Nathan Sloop told police he used the hammer to do so and then packaged up the boy's body. Both were the ideas of the boy's mother, he told police.

"Stephanie was worried about his dental records," Nathan Sloop explained.  

The couple was married May 6 and Sloop told police that they didn't take the boy to the ceremony because of his injuries. He said they should have gone to the emergency room, but they were "afraid I was going to go to prison."

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