FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) — A judge on Monday sentenced a Utah mother to serve at least 20 years in prison for her role in the killing of her 4-year-old son, who was malnourished, beaten and disfigured before he was buried in the mountains.
Stephanie Sloop, 31, sobbed as she apologized in court and said her selfish behavior led to Ethan Stacy's 2010 death.
She said she had abused prescription medications "to the point I was unable to make sound choices and decisions, thus causing me to be reckless and indifferent with my Ethan's life."
"I am entirely responsible, because I was his mommy," Sloop said, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Sloop was scheduled to appear in court in the city of Farmington for an evidence hearing but instead pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and obstructing justice as part of a deal with prosecutors.
Second District Court Judge Thomas Kay then sentenced Sloop to serve 20 years to life behind bars.
Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said the plea deal allows the boy's biological father, Joe Stacy, to heal and avoid witnessing a trial and possible appeals, The Standard-Examiner reported.
Sloop failed to stop her husband and Ethan's stepfather, Nathanael Sloop, from abusing her son and didn't call for medical help, the prosecutor said. She helped hide the boy's body and lied to police, Rawlings said.
A medical examiner testified in his case last year that that Ethan died from a combination of too many over-the-counter medications, severe burns and pneumonia.
Nathanael Sloop, 35, then used a hammer to disfigure the boy's face before burying his body in the northern Utah mountains, authorities said. He is serving 25 years to life in prison for killing his stepson after he pleaded "guilty and mentally ill" to aggravated murder in February.
Stacy, who lives in Virginia, was in court Monday but declined to make a statement during the hearing, the Tribune reported.
He had sent Ethan to live with his mother as part of a divorce agreement. The boy died 10 days after arriving in Utah.
When he called to talk with his son, Stacy said Stephanie and Nathanael Sloop told him Ethan was asleep or playing outside.