FARMINGTON, Utah -- The man accused of killing 4-year-old Ethan Stacy appeared in court for the first time since Davis County prosecutors announced they might seek the death penalty against him.
Nathan Sloop made a quick appearance before a judge, where his lawyer asked for a preliminary hearing. It was scheduled for March 27-29.
"At this point we're just going to proceed forward with the preliminary hearing, put some evidence on and spend three days in court discussing evidence in the case," Sloop's attorney, Richard Mauro, said outside of court.
Sloop and his wife, Stephanie, are accused of abusing her son, Ethan Stacy, so badly that he died. The boy's disfigured body was found buried in a shallow grave near Powder Mountain in 2010.
Last week, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty. Mauro told FOX 13 outside of court he remained open to the idea of a plea bargain.
"I think I've always said every time I've talked to you guys if we can reach some kind of agreement and everybody's on the same page with it, then we can resolve this," Mauro said. "If we can't, then you go forward, put evidence on and test the evidence in court. That's what we're planning on doing right now."
The case has drawn national outrage. A group calling itself "Ethan's Army" has appeared at every court hearing, a symbolic demand of justice for the boy. Outside of court, Anissa Martinez, one of the group's representatives read text messages she claimed came from Ethan's father, Joe Stacy, who lives in West Virginia.
"We were asked if we thought the death penalty was justifiable in this case. Our answer is no. In our opinion, it's not enough," Martinez said, reading the text messages. "But if that's as much as we can get, then it will have to be. For what Ethan suffered and endured, they need to know those feelings, too. We are confident in the prosecution and put our faith in them and God that justice will be served."
Rawlings criticized the comments made by Ethan's Army outside of court. He fired off a statement of his own, saying:
"We are trying to minimize publicity to the degree we can in order to maximize the defendant's right to a fair trial. To have a self-appointed spokesperson jump on camera and onto the pages of newsprint just after a court hearing is troubling, counterproductive and disingenuous."
Nathan Sloop will be back in court later this month for an evidence hearing. Stephanie Sloop is due in court on Thursday.