The hearing has been rescheduled three times since charges were filed against Sloop and Ethan's mother, 30-year-old Stephanie Sloop, shortly after Ethan's death. Along with the aggravated murder charge, the couple has also been charged with intentionally inflicting serious physical injury on a child, obstructing justice and abuse or desecration of a human body. Nathan Sloop is also charged with damaging a jail cell.
Seven aggravating factors are listed in charging documents connected to the murder charge, including child abuse, desecration of a human body, that the victim was under the age of 14, and the crime was committed in an "especially heinous, atrocious, cruel or exceptionally depraved manner."
Prosecutors in December filed their intent to seek the death penalty against Nathan Sloop.
Sloop's initial preliminary hearing was scheduled for February 2011, but was delayed after prosecutors and defense attorneys asked for more time to sort through tens of thousands of pages of documents and hundreds of discs containing evidence.
The hearing was scheduled and cancelled two more times before Sloop conditionally waived the hearing altogether in March 2012. However, Sloop changed his mind after prosecutors indicated they would seek the death penalty, and asked for a preliminary hearing.
Stephanie Sloop is scheduled to appear in court next on April 12. A preliminary hearing for her has not been set.
Charging documents allege the Layton couple engaged in multiple acts of "severe abuse" between April 29 and May 8 in 2010, which led to Ethan's death, including "beatings, burning, drugging, isolating, malnourishing, leaving the child alone and unattended while suffering, and refusing to seek vital life-sustaining medical attention."
According to police probable cause statements, Stephanie Sloop said she knew Ethan needed medical attention after an initial May 5 disciplinary beating by Nathan Sloop, but that she was afraid Sloop would harm her, too, if she acted.
She told police that Ethan became "extremely ill," would not eat and was given Benadryl to keep him quiet. She also told police that on May 7, Nathan Sloop told her Ethan had burned himself in the bathtub on his feet, legs and buttocks by turning up the hot water when Nathan Sloop left the bathroom.
The couple who said they left the injured boy in a locked bedroom while they got married on May 6 reported Ethan missing to police on Mother's Day, May 10, after discovering the boy was dead.
But after a 12-hour search, police say the couple confessed to burying the boy near Powder Mountain Ski Resort in Weber County.
Nathan Sloop, who led officers to the body on May 11, told police he used a hammer to disfigure the boy's face and teeth in an effort to hinder identification. Sloop also sprinkled dog food on the boy's unmarked grave, according to prosecutors.