FARMINGTON -- Davis County has seven murder cases on its court docket for 2012.
"My hope is murder cases will decline to zero, but I know that is not realistic," said Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings. "As the county's population continues to grow, all types of crime, including homicide cases, will increase."
Rawlings declined to comment on any of the cases his office is prosecuting. "In order to be sensitive to the victims and to be fair to the defendants I have to refrain from commenting."
The oldest case is 10 years old. The newest case will be a year old in 2012. Although each case is different, there are some commonalities among them.
Four of the cases involve children as victims:
* Lacey Paige Lawrence, age 6, died Sept. 2, 2002.
* Ethan Stacy, age 4, died May 9, 2010.
* Jean Warhola, age 8, died Sept. 8, 2010.
* James Warhola, age 7, died Sept. 8, 2010.
Three of the defendants have had mental competency raised as an issue by defense attorneys.
* Jeremy Jacob Hauck, charged with murder after police found the body of his mother, Laura Hauck, in a freezer on Aug. 7, 2006. Police said Jeremy shot his mother twice, then slit her throat before hiding her body.
Jeremy Hauck is currently at the Utah State Hospital undergoing evaluation to determine if he is competent for trial. A review hearing is set for Feb. 27.
* Phillip Joseph Simmons is charged with murder after police said he stabbed Suzanne Fry 51 times in her Bountiful apartment on Jan. 20, 2008. Doctors have determined he is now competent to stand trial. Now doctors are trying to determine if Simmons was mentally competent at the time of the stabbing, said defense attorney Mark Arrington. A five-day jury trial is set for Feb. 6-10.
* Sun Cha Warhola is charged with two counts of murder after police found her two children strangled inside her home. She is currently at the Utah State Hospital undergoing treatment to restore her mental competency. A review hearing is set for May 25.
"Mental health issues can prolong the period of time a case is in court or, potentially, could permanently halt a case," Rawlings said.
Rawlings said mental health issues cannot be rushed, so those are out of the control of prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges, which can cause "cases to remain in limbo for the mental health issues to be ferreted out."
The case of Mark Anthony Ott is the oldest case on the Davis County Attorney's docket.
Ott pleaded guilty to capital murder in the death of Lacey Lawrence, who died in a house fire police said Ott started. The 6-year-old girl was staying at the home of Ott's then estranged wife. The Utah Supreme Court in 2010 overturned the life-without-parole sentence for his aggravated murder guilty plea and sent the case back to 2nd District Court.
A court hearing is set for Wednesday . Ott is currently serving other prison sentences in connection with the fire.
The newest case will be a year old in March, that of Joseph Allen Nance.
Nance, 29, is accused of shooting his father, Gregory Nance, on March 19, 2011, during an argument at the Far West Motel in Kaysville. He has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree felony murder charge and is being held in the Davis County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail. His next hearing is set for Jan. 23.
A married couple, Nathan and Stephanie Sloop, are each facing their own charges in connection with the death of 4-year-old Ethan Stacy.
Ethan's disfigured body was found buried in Weber County on May 10 after Stephanie Sloop called to report Ethan, her son, missing.
Both Sloops could face the death penalty. Prosecutors will decide if they will pursue the death penalty after the Sloops enter a plea at a future hearing.
Rawlings could not comment specifically on either Sloops' case, but did say, "In general, some of these cases are eligible for the death penalty as a realistic course of action."
Nathan Sloop has a five-day preliminary hearing scheduled to begin March 19. At that hearing, a judge will decide if there is enough evidence against him for the case to go forward to trial. No hearing has been set for Stephanie Sloop at this time.