LAYTON -- Davis County prosecutors revealed what went on behind the scenes in the Ethan Stacy murder case and why they offered a controversial plea deal to one of his accused killers.
Speaking to a group of social workers, victim advocates, law enforcement and others at a child abuse prevention conference on Wednesday, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings and his colleagues discussed details of the high-profile murder case, much of which was presented in court.
They also showed some of the evidence collected, including videotapes of the boy filmed by his stepfather, Nathanial Sloop.
"You're such a good boy! I like you!" Sloop coos on one of them.
In an audio recording, the 4-year-old boy was crying as he was cajoled into saying he wanted to stay in Utah with his mother, Stephanie Sloop.
"I want to live here," he cried.
"Are you sure?" Nathan Sloop asks him.
"Yes," Ethan cried.
"It goes down hill from there," said deputy Davis County Attorney David Cole as the recording ended. "It was helpful to have."
As the video and audio recordings were played, conference attendees could be seen getting emotional. Prosecutors acknowledged it was a difficult case that took a personal toll on officers and investigators, but said the evidence gathered helped to ensure a conviction.
"When did the beatings start?" an investigator asks during an interrogation of Nathan Sloop broadcast at the conference.
"Probably from day one," Sloop responded on the tape.
Prosecutors said Ethan was hit, scalded in a bathtub and eventually given so much over-the-counter medications to try to heal him that he died. As he was being abused, prosecutors showed a cell phone video of Nathan and Stephanie Sloop getting married at the Davis County Clerk's Office.
After Ethan died, his body was buried in a shallow grave near Powder Mountain. His face had been smashed in with a hammer in an effort to prevent identification, prosecutors claimed.
They showed video of the boy's body being removed from the grave. Dog food and lighter fluid had been scattered over the grave in another effort to conceal it.
Nathan Sloop called 911 to report his stepson missing, but Cole said what he didn't know was the call was recorded as soon as emergency dispatchers were called. On the recording, he can be heard telling Stephanie something.
"Turn on a movie or something. We were in bed," he says on the recording.
Prosecutors said Sloop led them to his stepson's body. He and Stephanie were charged with aggravated murder and prosecutors were pushing for the death penalty. Ultimately, Sloop struck a plea deal.
"This was one that I lost a lot of sleep over," Rawlings conceded in his remarks.
The county attorney said he received hundreds of phone calls and emails from people angry about a plea deal. But Rawlings said challenges to Shelby's Law (that allows for aggravated murder in abuse cases where a child dies), questions about Sloop's mental state and evidence issues led him to offer a deal.
"When you see and hear from this little boy and what happened to him, and the horrible ending to his life for the last 10 days while he was here in Utah, those people who are supportive of the death penalty all believe this is one of those cases where that should have happened," he said.
Rawlings said Ethan's father, Joe Stacy, was consulted and agreed with the plea deal.
Nathan Sloop was sentenced to 25-to-life in prison. His first parole hearing will not be until 2055.
Rawlings limited his remarks on Stephanie Sloop, citing her case pending in the courts. He told the audience she was considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
He did say he expects her case will go to trial.