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CSI agent says inspiration led him to Ethan Stacy's grave

WEBER COUNTY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Crime scene investigators found Ethan Stacy's mutilated body in a shallow grave almost three years ago. The 4-year-old boy endured horrific abuse at the hands of his own mother and stepfather.
"You feel inspiration. You feel a closeness and if you're in tune with some of these things, with your feelings, then all you have to do is listen," -Kenny Payne
WEBER COUNTY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Crime scene investigators found Ethan Stacy's mutilated body in a shallow grave almost three years ago. The 4-year-old boy endured horrific abuse at the hands of his own mother and stepfather.

For the very first time the medical examiner who found Ethan's body is opening up to explain what led him to the makeshift grave and the spiritual experiences he says he had with the boy as he carried his body off the mountain.

Kenny Payne was the most senior Davis County Sheriff's Deputy when he retired after 45 years of service last month.  He also worked as a medical examiner in Utah for more than 30 years.

The Davis County Sheriff describes Payne as one of the best homicide investigators in Utah.  He said skills played an important roll in many homicide investigations.  Ethan Stacy is just one of the many victim's he served.      

The media gave this little boy continuous coverage when his mother Stephanie Sloop reported him missing May 10, 2010. The public didn't know it yet, but Ethan was already dead.

Ethan moved to Utah with his mother on April 28.  Ten days later the boy died.

Scalding, pneumonia and too much medication killed Ethan, according to the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner.

His stepfather Nathan Sloop is accused of beating Ethan into submission. His mother and stepfather reportedly locked him alone in a room while they were married. They were apparently afraid someone would file a report the swelling to Ethan's face caused by the alleged beating he endured at the hands of Nathan.  Stephanie failed to report the abuse as her son endured several beatings.

Ethan's mother and stepfather allegedly wrapped Ethan's body in 8 plastic bags and buried him in a remote mountainside near Powder Mountain.

Medical Examiner Kenny Payne remembers the day his phone rang with news of a possible makeshift grave. "I remember being at the class up at the courthouse in Farmington," he said.

A short time later he was driving to the crime scene.  Nathan revealed a general location to officers, but was not able to recall the exact spot he reportedly buried Ethan's body. 

Payne walked up the mountain to find the crime scene.  Police tape wrapped around a thousand foot square. Inside was another area of police tape around a 200 by 300 foot space.

Medical examiners at the scene told Payne they narrowed the possible grave locations to three areas and then they stopped and looked at Payne.  "I said I'm interested in this one area," he said.

"Why?" asked ABC 4's Noah Bond.

"I just had a feeling," Payne responded.

"Where did the feeling come from?" Bond asked.

Payne quietly looked forward as he struggled to hold back his emotion.  He started to soften and began opening up about communicating with unseen forces.

"You feel inspiration.  You feel a closeness and if you're in tune with some of these things, with your feelings, then all you have to do is listen," Payne said.

He felt prompted to walk to an area of disturbed soil.  He reached down to pick up a small flag and used the end as a soil probe. "Hard, soft, soft, soft, soft, and that way we could outline the area, what had been disturbed soil," Payne said.

Payne used a small shovel to remove soil from Ethan's makeshift grave.  He analyzed every particle. The process took about three hours.

Ethan's small body was eventually placed in a tarp and carried down the mountain.  Payne recalls one of the investigators looking at him to ask, "'Do you think we have him?'"

Payne recalled his experience in that moment, "There's inspiration there or a voice and he called me by name he says, 'Kenny I'm here. Take me home.' I knew that OK this is this is who we had...I told Paul we have him," he said.  

Inspiration or imagination?  Either way Payne is a proven Pit Bull.  He's the tough man prosecutors want as their lead crime scene investigator.

Payne retired as a medical examiner and Davis County Sheriff's Deputy about a month ago.  He is returning to work as a part time medical examiner this summer.






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