OGDEN — The father of a 4-year-old boy who was abused and overmedicated before being buried in the mountains nearly four years ago said the guilty plea entered this week by the man responsible provides "no justice at all."
Joe Stacy of Virginia told the Standard-Examiner that no amount of prison time can bring his son back.
Nathanael Sloop pleaded "guilty and mentally ill" to aggravated murder Tuesday in the 2010 death of Ethan Stacy, his stepson. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison and avoided a potential death sentence by taking the plea deal.
"If he got the death penalty, it still wouldn't be justice for what he did," Stacy said. "He took my son. There's no way to get him back. There's no justice at all."
Sloop's wife and the boy's mother, Stephanie Sloop, is also charged in the boy's death. She has another hearing in her case next week.
Stacy and his wife flew to Utah this week to be at the hearing where Sloop took the plea deal. Prior to the hearing, Stacy spent a few hours at the site where his son's body was found. Residents put up a cross there after Ethan's body was discovered.
Authorities say Nathan Sloop used a hammer to disfigure the boy's face before burying his body in the northern Utah mountains.
"It was hard," Stacy told the newspaper, as he held the hand of his wife, Becky Stacy, on Wednesday. "I've seen all the pictures, but I knew I wanted to go up there and see where they found him at. Part of it was trying to get some closure, but I guess there never will."
Joe Stacy said prosecutors told him that Sloop wanted to apologize to him. Stacy declined, saying he didn't want to hear anything Sloop had to say. On Tuesday, Joe Stacy said Sloop looked at him as he left the court and said, "Sorry, Joe," before lowering his head.
Sloop also told the judge: "That boy died on my watch, and I'm horribly sorry."
Joe Stacy sent his son to Layton to be with his mother as part of a divorce agreement. When he called to talk with his young son, Stephanie and Nathan Sloop told him Ethan was asleep or playing outside.
During an evidentiary hearing last year, a medical examiner testified that Ethan died from a combination of too many over-the-counter medications, severe burns and pneumonia.
Joe Stacy said his son was a kind, loving boy who was always hugging his father and telling him he loved him. The boy loved the movie "Cars" and was infatuated with a Transformers toy he received at his last Christmas.
Ethan's older brother has struggled since the boy's death, Joe Stacy said.
"Instead of going out and playing with friends his age, he'd always stay home and play with (Ethan). He really, really loved him," Joe Stacy told the Standard-Examiner.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company