FARMINGTON — A man accused of brutally beating and killing his 4-year-old stepson pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the charges against him.
Nathan Sloop, 33, slowly scanned the courtroom before he reiterated that he did not want to have a preliminary hearing. He then pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated murder, a first-degree felony; child abuse and obstructing justice, second-degree felonies; and abuse or desecration of a body, a third-degree felony, in the 2010 killing of Ethan Stacy.
Both Sloop and Stephanie Sloop, 29, the boy's mother, are facing those charges in the boy's death. Nathan Sloop is facing an additional charge of damaging a jail, a third-degree felony. Nathan Sloop's case will move forward with a pretrial conference in October.
Stephanie Sloop's case is set for a status conference on July 31. She has yet to enter a plea.
"As far as we're concerned, the case is moving forward," Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said. "A lot of progress is being made on this case behind the scenes."
Ethan Stacy died not long after he arrived in Utah from Virginia to spend the summer with his biological mother and her fiancé. Court documents list "severe abuse" as the cause of death and investigators said Ethan was abused between April 29 and May 8.
Authorities say he was left alone, locked in an apartment bedroom, while his mother went to get married because the couple feared people would call police if they saw Ethan's injuries.
After his death, the 4-year-old boy's body was found near Powder Mountain in Weber County the Tuesday after Mother's Day. According to court documents, the boy's face had been disfigured and his grave had been sprinkled with dog food.
There have been no plea agreements reached in the case, but attorneys on both sides indicated that there have been discussions.
Now that Nathan Sloop has had an arraignment hearing and entered his plea, prosecutors have 60 days to indicate whether they will seek the death penalty in the case. Rawlings said his office has yet to make an official decision about the death penalty.
"At this point in time, though, our focus is on preparing the case, it's on the evidence, it's on doing what we can do to make sure we're in the best position we can possibly be if we go to trial in this case," he said.