Ethan Stacy Murder: Divorce Settlement Apparently Put 4-Year-Old in Danger

Four-year-old Ethan Stacy was reported missing by his mother and stepfather May 11, 2010. The two reportedly told police that Ethan had wandered out of the family's apartment in Layton, Utah.
Personal Photo
Ethan Stacy (Personal Photo)

SALT LAKE CITY (CBS/AP) As charges loom for the mother and stepfather of Ethan Stacy, whose badly beaten and disfigured body was found buried in a Utah canyon this week, one has to ask how these alleged monsters got their hands on this innocent 4-year-old in the first place.

PICTURES: Ethan Stacy Dead; Mother, Stepfather Charged

The answer: a nasty divorce.

In Nov. 2009, Ethan's biological father, Joe Stacy of Tazewell, Va., wrote in a custody petition that Ethan's mother, Stephanie Sloop, was unstable and had abandoned the youngster.

Stacy, who then lived in Apopka, Fla., eventually agreed to share custody of the boy, with Ethan spending the school year with his father and summers with his mother, according to divorce papers obtained by The Associated Press.

The divorce settlement was approved by Judge Maura T. Smith of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida in Orlando. Smith said Thursday the divorce was a "cut-and-dried" uncontested settlement.

Nathanael and Stephanie Sloop (Personal Photo)

She said she had not read Joe Stacy's initial petition and simply approved the final divorce and custody agreement. Ethan's father appeared alone April 28 for the 10-minute hearing, one of hundreds of divorce cases the court handles a week, Smith told The Associated Press.

PICTURES: Ethan Stacy Dead; Mother, Stepfather Charged

The couple divided their personal property, and Stephanie Sloop gave up claims to a Florida house that fell into foreclosure in December, according to court files.

She didn't wait long to remarry.  On Thursday, May 6 -- just eight days after her divorce -- Stephanie exchanged vows with Nathanael Sloop in a courthouse wedding in Utah.

The couple locked a badly beaten Ethan in his bedroom while they drove 10 miles for the ceremony, according to police.

Nathanael Sloop, 31, is being held on suspicion of aggravated murder. He and Stephanie Sloop, 27, also face charges of desecration of a corpse, felony child abuse and obstruction of justice, police said.

Both remain jailed. Their first court appearances are scheduled for Friday and security will be tight.

MEDIA:PICTURES: Ethan Stacy Dead; Mother, Stepfather Charged

May 12, 2010 - Ethan Stacy's Mother: "You Can Always Have More Children," She Says of Previous Loss
May 12, 2010 - Ethan Stacy Found Dead; Mother and Stepfather Charged in 4-Year-Old's Death