Defense begins in Ethan Stacy murder case

Posted at 2:56 PM, Mar 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-29 01:07:21-04

UPDATE 4:23 p.m.:  Nathan Sloop's attorney called up a photograph of Ethan Stacy sitting with Nathan Sloop on the couch, playing video games.

Ethan's face looks bruised. Mauro called up a photograph of Ethan at the Salt Lake City International Airport the night he arrived in Utah on April 28. Then he showed Detective Roderick another photograph he said was taken immediately afterward.

Mauro says that in the second picture, Ethan's face appears swollen.

"He looks like a different kid than in Defendant's Exhibit 19, doesn't he?" Mauro asked.

"Yes," Roderick said.

Mauro then turned to the police interviews conducted with Nathan Sloop after he led police to Ethan's body. Stephanie Sloop had been talking to police about Nathan.

Throughout the interviews, Mauro pointed out, Nathan Sloop tried to protect his wife.

"Tell me you'll go somewhat easy on her because that girl's had a horrid f---ing life," Sloop allegedly told police.

Asked about abuse in another interview, Mauro said Nathan told police: "That's me covering for Steph."

Mauro read from a number of police interviews where Nathan Sloop told police he would take the blame for his wife.

"Look, I'll say whatever. Just let me talk to Stephanie. Let me kiss her. Let me hold her. Let me pray for my forgiveness from her. Then take me the f--- away," Sloop allegedly said.

Mauro suggested his client was trying to protect Stephanie Sloop.

"Blame it all on me," he said in one transcript. "I don't care. I don't care. I don't want Stephanie to go to prison. Make me out to be f---ing Jack the Ripper."

"Things are over. Things are at the end. I just took responsibility for every f---ing thing. and you guys aren't naive enough the believe that i did every f---ing thing," Mauro read, saying he counted seven instances where Sloop tried to defend his wife.

Mauro asked Roderick about the scalding burns that Ethan Stacy suffered. He noted that Nathan Sloop initially claimed that he was not home when Ethan was scalded.

Mauro showed the court a text message Stephanie Sloop sent to an old boyfriend in Washington state on May 8 at 1:08 a.m.

"Ethan scaled [scalded] himself in the bath the other night. I turned my back to get a wash cloth and as sensitive as my shower is, it's too hot and he burned his legs and back of thighs. He's a grumpy little s---," Mauro read the text message.

Mauro noted detectives had been told repeatedly told Ethan was administered Benadryl. He showed pictures of Children's Benadryl, Children's Claritin and children's non-asprin.

"Did Nathan and Stephanie talk to you about administration of medication?" Mauro asked.

"They did," Roderick said.

"Nathan told you Stephanie is the one that gives him medication," Mauro said.

"He did."

Mauro said Ethan likely died in the early morning hours of May 8. He was likely buried the next day.

"They believe he died in his sleep because they found him dead in the morning," Mauro told the court.

Mauro asked about Sloop being given medications during his interrogations. Officers were concerned that the suspect could challenge the validity of the statements under the influence of them.

The Davis County Attorney's Office told police to give Sloop his medications. Roderick said he was given the dosages on the bottles.

Mauro said Sloop demanded the medication and offered to take them to Ethan's body.

"Give me the f---ing meds," Sloop allegedly told police.

Mauro asked about Sloop's interviews.

"Nathan's statements were hard to follow," Roderick said, reading from a police report. "His voice was shaky. His teeth were chattering and he was hard to follow at times."

Mauro focused police interviews with Sloop where they asked if it was an accident and suggested Ethan's death may be a negligent homicide, which is a class A misdemeanor.

"It is an accident," Sloop allegedly said.

Roderick testified it may have been a tactic in the interview to get Sloop to reveal more.

Mauro asked what the state medical examiner said about Ethan's death.

"We had a combination of scalding injuries, a head injury," Roderick testified, indicating it was a bruise to Ethan's head. "Toxicology I don't think had come back."

Mauro asked about other causes of death floated in police interviews including suffocation, head injuries and drowning. Roderick testified that some detectives "threw that out there," as well as information provided by Stephanie Sloop.

Mauro questioned blood being found in Ethan's room, noting the crime lab found no indication there was blood on a mattress. He also questioned the account of feces being put in Ethan's mouth, saying fecal matter was not found on his toothbrush.

Mauro played for the court several police interviews where detectives suggested Ethan's death was an accident.

"Accidental and intentional are two different things," Nathan Sloop allegedly told police.

Mauro wrapped up by asking about the box that Ethan Stacy was in. It was used to store dog food he said.

"It was just residual from what was in that container, correct?" Mauro asked Roderick.

"Correct," the detective replied.

UPDATE 2:49 p.m.: Nathan Sloop's defense attorney asked about police interviews conducted with Ethan Stacy's accused killer.

Richard Mauro pointed out that it was after several interviews that Nathan Sloop was given his Miranda rights. There is also one interview where the video cut out.

Detective Roderick insists that Nathan Sloop was read his Miranda warning in a timely manner. Sloop even asked for an attorney and police ended the interview. But Mauro pointed out Sloop said he would talk to him. They led him into a room where a camera was and asked him to look at the camera and recant his request for an attorney.

But there was a problem.

"That camera equipment wasn't operational?" Mauro asked.

"It was operational but we were having problems that day," Roderick testified. "It was cutting in and out. It would stop and start and stop and start. We were unaware that it had stopped."

The camera did not capture Sloop recanting his desire for a lawyer.

"Did you have him sign a Miranda waiver form?" Mauro asked.

"No," Roderick said.

UPDATE 2:34 p.m.:  Nathan Sloop appeared in court wearing the same suit as yesterday, but without the tie.

Defense attorneys began their cross-examination of Layton Police Detective Jeff Roderick. Other Layton police officers were in the courtroom, as were members of "Ethan's Army," who have attended every one of Sloop's court proceedings in a show of support for the boy's father, Joe Stacy.

Sloop's defense attorney Rich Mauro began by noting all the evidence that has been compiled in this case -- more than 30,000 documents alone.

Mauro handed Roderick a piece of paper.

"This is a narcotics sheet from Nathan Sloop. It details all the narcotics he was prescribed over a one-year period," he said.

The sheet is lengthy. Over the course of an 11-month period, Mauro said, Sloop was prescribed 4,146 pills. Some of the prescriptions included Lortab, Valium, Percocet, Alprazylam, Nepedrine, Diamphetamine and Hyrdomorphone.

Mauro pointed out that in March 2010 alone, Sloop was prescribed over 300 hyrdromorphones, and other drugs with similarly high pill counts. In April, he had just under 500 pills prescribed. In May, the month Ethan Stacy died, he had about 300.

Mauro asked why Sloop's doctor wasn't contacted about why he was prescribed so many pills. The detective had no answer.

Mauro asked about other doctors that were treating Nathan Sloop, and why police haven't inquired about mental health issues. One doctor, Robert Prayman, is a family therapist whom Nathan and Stephanie Sloop had said they were taking Ethan to for treatment of behavioral issues.

"There was no follow up to confirm or investigate that?" Mauro asked.

Mauro brought up a domestic violence incident in Las Vegas in 2009, where Joe Stacy was accused of choking Stephanie. Ethan had told Nathan and Stephanie he had seen his mom being choked.

"What they have in the first week of his arrival, is a little boy that appears to them to have psychological issues," Mauro said.

He showed the detective a phone log of numerous calls, including to Dr. Prayman. Mauro said both Nathan and Stephanie Sloop spoke of "crisis moments" where they needed to call the family therapist.

Mauro also spoke about Dr. Cory Saundrup, a chiropractor and holistic medicine practitioner. Stephanie Sloop told Saundrup that Ethan was biting Nathan, and the boy was also getting out of the apartment.

It was Dr. Saundrup, Mauro said, who told Stephanie to "put honey on it" for a burn

Ethan had suffered. Mauro pulled up a Google search of burns that included home treatments, as well as admonitions against overmedicating children.

"Did you know that Benadryl can be used to treat a burn to stop the itching?" Mauro asked the detective.

Mauro showed the detective a picture of a bottle of honey, taken by police in the Sloop's apartment.

On May 7, 2010, Nathan Sloop went to Dr. Saundrup for a lower back injury and complained that Ethan Stacy had bit him in the hand. Dr. Saundrup recommended acupuncture and oil of oregano for treatment.

Dr. Saundrup also recommended they talk to a child psychologist, Mauro said.

Mauro pointed out that Dr. Saundrup told police he received a phone call on May 7 at 10:30 p.m.

"Nate called my cell phone, stating that when he held Ethan he would go limp and just lay there," Mauro said, reading from the police statement.

Ethan Stacy died on May 8, prosecutors contend.

Mauro pressed further, calling up a text message Stephanie Sloop sent on May 6 to an old boyfriend:

"Hey I know you don't have kids but Ethan keeps talking about how Joe choked me and I don't know what to do. Instead of acting almost 5, he's acting almost 3. Could he be having flash backs? I'm taking him to the psychologist tomorrow. idk what to do."

Mauro wrapped up his line of questioning by pointing out the numerous calls that Nathan and Stephanie Sloop had with medical providers leading up to Ethan's death.