LAYTON — Five years after the death of a 4-year-old boy, community members are still gathering in his memory and to recognize all children who suffer from abuse.
Rumbling motorcycles followed by quiet footsteps traveled 10.5 miles Saturday from the Layton Meadows Apartments where Ethan Stacy died to the Davis County Courthouse where his mother and step-father were sentenced to prison for the boy's brutal murder.
The walk began as a way for community members to mourn Ethan's death, but now in its sixth year, it has evolved into an effort to raise awareness in preventing child abuse for all children, according to Anissa Martinez, who organizes the annual event.
We start (at the Layton Meadows Apartments) because this is where Ethan Stacy died. Then we walk all the way to the Davis County Jail, where justice was served.
–Anissa Martinez, event organizer
"We start here because this is where Ethan Stacy died," Martinez said as about 30 participants gathered across the street from the apartment complex. "Then we walk all the way to the Davis County Jail, where justice was served. In the beginning it was 'Justice for Ethan,' and then we changed it to 'Walk Against Child Abuse,' so we represent all children, not just Ethan. We just do it in Ethan's memory, because that's how we started."
Ethan Stacy was sent to live with his mother, Stephanie Sloop, and her fiance, Nathan Sloop, in 2010 because of a court-ordered custody agreement. Within days of his arrival, Ethan was severely abused, burned, beaten, overmedicated and neglected. When he died, his mother and step-father disfigured and attempted to hide his body near Powder Mountain in Weber County, where police later discovered it.
Stephanie Sloop was sentenced in November to serve 20 years to life in prison, and Nathan Sloop took a plea deal earlier that year, avoiding a potential death penalty, and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Lucinda Martin remembers how she felt after hearing Ethan's story and deciding to help organize the walk.
"Something clicked. Enough was enough. People needed to acknowledge the abuse that was going on," Martin said. "We just want people to remember that there are kids out there that are abused, and if you see something, you need to report it. You need to stand up and be a voice for the kids that don't have a voice because they're too scared to tell.
"Awareness is the biggest thing," she said. "By that one phone call, you can save a child's life."
Miyagi Israel, president of the North Wasatch Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse, known as BACA, said he and other members of the group ride their motorcycles with those who do the walk to show their support for abuse prevention efforts.
"It's really heart-wrenching every year," Israel said. "For that little one to go through that kind of abuse, it makes my blood cold."
Martinez said she hopes the yearly walk will encourage people to report child abuse when they see it and prevent what could become a tragedy for kids like Ethan.
"Child abuse is everywhere," Martinez said. "We just want people to be aware and do something about it. They could easily call 911. It's better to be wrong when you report it than to not report it and live with the guilt of something happening to that child."