FARMINGTON — Judge Glen Dawson has ordered Nathan Sloop to stand trial for murder in the death of his 4-year-old stepson Ethan Stacy.
Dawson's decision came almost four months after he heard the evidence against Sloop, 34, who faces aggravated murder and other charges in Ethan's death. The judge declined, however, to rule on the constitutionality of pursuing the death penalty in the case.
Prosecutors Thursday morning tried to convince Judge Dawson that Sloop should face the possibility of the death penalty in the death of Ethan Stacy.
In 2010, Sloop, 34, was charged with aggravated murder, intentionally inflicting serious physical injury on a child, obstructing justice and abuse or desecration of a human body. Stacy's mother, Stephanie Sloop, faces similar charges.
Last month, Davis County prosecutors invoked Shelby's Law by filing amended charges against Sloop, alleging he caused Stacy's death "with reckless indifference to human life." The charges initially said Sloop "intentionally or knowingly" caused the boy's death.
Charging documents state the Layton couple inflicted severe abuse between the end of April and beginning of May 2010 that led to Stacy's death, including "beatings, burning, drugging, isolating, malnourishing, and refusing to seek vital life-sustaining medical attention."
Davis County prosecutors changed some of the wording in the charges to make this case fall under Shelby's Law, which was signed into law by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. in 2007. It states that prosecutors would not have to prove the alleged killing was intentional to seek the death penalty. The law states only that a child died during an act of abuse, sexual assault or kidnapping.
During previous hearings, Sloop repeatedly said Stacy's death was "an accident."
Sloop's attorneys argued he shouldn't face the death penalty or be charged under Shelby's Law because the death was unintentional.
Judge Dawson commented that it was too early in the case to look at the constitutionality of the statute, but said it can be revisited at a later date. Thursday's hearing was about whether there was sufficient evidence to support the charges against Sloop.
In addition to capital murder, Sloop is also charged with obstructing justice and intentionally inflicting serious injury on a child, second-degree felonies; and desecration of a dead body, a third-degree felony.
Stacy died less than two weeks after he arrived from Virginia to stay with the Sloops for the summer. His body — wrapped in garbage bags and tape — was found buried near Powder Mountain in Weber County.
Contributing: Emiley Morgan