FARMINGTON -- Public defenders say court officials need more time to appoint qualified death-penalty attorneys for Nathanael and Stephanie Sloop.
The Layton couple are charged with aggravated murder in connection with the death of 4-year-old Ethan Stacy, whose body was found near Powder Mountain on May 11. Both could receive the death penalty if they are convicted.
Ethan's mother, Stephanie Sloop, 27, appeared first Friday afternoon before 2nd District Court Judge David Connors. As in previous hearings, the courtroom -- with about a dozen officers providing security -- was packed with supporters of Ethan, as well as members of Bikers Against Child Abuse.
A member of BACA who goes by the name of Ish was at Friday's hearing. After the hearing, he said many of those in the public are unaware how long cases like the Sloops can take to get through the system before there is a conviction.
"It won't be over in a day, a week, a month or a year," said Ish, who wore a blue and yellow ribbon for Ethan on his black leather vest.
Dressed in a red jumpsuit, Stephanie Sloop kept her head bowed as public defender Julie George asked the court to continue the case for one more week to give court officials more time for the Rule 8 attorney selection process.
Ethan's stepfather, Nathanael Sloop, 31, came into the courtroom next. His public defender, Todd Utzinger, asked the court for the same time extension for the same reason.
Rule 8 allows the judge assigned to the case to appoint defense attorneys who are qualified and certified to handle a murder case where the death penalty could be sought.
"The judge is going through due diligence in choosing attorneys," said Nancy Volmer, spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Once the Sloops get to the felony arraignment hearings, 2nd District Court Judge Glen R. Dawson is assigned to both cases.
Last week in court, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said the prosecution is "heading toward seeking the death penalty" against the pair.
The Sloops are also charged with second-degree felony child abuse, second-degree felony obstruction of justice and third-degree felony abuse or desecration of a body. Nathanael Sloop also has been charged with third-degree felony damaging a jail.
Both are accused of abusing Ethan for days in their apartment before he died May 9, which was Mother's Day. The next day, May 10, the two took the child's body to a wooded area near Powder Mountain, desecrated it and buried it, according to documents. They then called Layton police to report that the boy had wandered off.
Ethan came to Utah on May 1 to spend the summer with his mother following a divorce settlement.
Davis County has for many years been part of the state's "Indigent Capital Defense Trust Fund," which is overseen by the governor's office.
Davis County paid $132,766 for the year of 2010, according to county documents. That trust fund is used to pay for public defenders in capital homicide cases.
Prosecutors declined to comment after the hearings, stating they did not want to jeopardize the cases before they go to trial.
Once the Sloops are appointed public defenders, the attorneys can move forward to a preliminary hearing. If the judge determines there is enough evidence to bind the cases over to a trial, the cases are set for felony arraignment hearings. The defendants, through their public defenders, can opt out of the preliminary hearings and scheduled felony arraignment hearings.
After the felony arraignment hearings, prosecutors have 60 days to file with the courts their intentions of seeking the death penalty if the Sloops are convicted of murder. The other penalties for aggravated murder convictions are life in prison without parole or 20 years to life with the possibility of parole.