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LAYTON - It started as a call for a missing child. Ethan Stacy's mother and stepfather told police he had wandered away in the middle of the night.
Officers scoured the area looking for the 4-year-old.
"The biggest concern is when you have a kid like this and wandered off on his own on a night light this wearing pajamas he could be in serious danger of hypothermia or something along those lines," said Garret Atkin with the Layton City Police Department when they started looking for Ethan.
It soon became clear something horrific had happened to Ethan and his mother and stepfather's story soon began to unravel.
"There's a saying in police where sometimes you have to give up part of your soul to get into a suspect's soul so that it will help you understand them," said Detective Brooke Plotnick. "During their interview, and hopefully later on you get it back, your own soul. But I think in this case a lot of us had to give that up, and a lot of us didn't get it back."
Ethan had moved to Utah to be with his mother, Stephanie, for the summer. Within days of his arrival, police say his new stepfather, Nathan Sloop, began beating and torturing the little boy, while his mother did nothing to stop it. Police say the newlyweds killed him, and buried him up Ogden Canyon.
"No one should have happen to him what that little boy had happen to him," said Lt. James Petre as he choked up.
It was a case difficult for even the most experienced detectives. The Sloop's court appearances drew dozens of people, many strangers, who were outraged and heartbroken by Ethan's murder.
Ethan was buried in Virginia, where his father lives.
"Just remember he was a loving boy," said Ethan's father Joe Stacy. "He was a very intelligent boy. He was just a son that above all he was just great."
Ethan may have only spent a short time in Utah, but Layton police believe they are his guardians. They work every day to bring him justice.
"These cases are probably going to stick with me for the rest of my life," said Detective Brent Ericksen.