(CNN) -- Utah prosecutors announced Friday that they expect to file murder charges against the mother and stepfather of a 4-year-old boy whose disfigured body was found this week in a canyon near Salt Lake City, Utah.
Local police said Ethan Sloop's body was buried in a shallow grave after he had been severely beaten, according to CNN affiliate KUTV.
Nathan Sloop, 31, and Stephanie Sloop, 27, are being held without bail at a Davis County, Utah, jail. Davis County prosecutor Troy Rawlings said local authorities expect to charge the couple with aggravated murder, child abuse, obstruction of justice and the desecration of a dead body.
If convicted, they could both face the death penalty.
Authorities delayed an expected filing of charges on Friday, Rawlings said, because "we don't want to make any mistake in our charging decision."
But "make no mistake: We intend to file formal charges with the court once the evidence we need to substantiate the crimes ... is obtained and submitted and processed."
Rawlings said he anticipated that charges would be filed in the "not too distant future."
Ethan's father, Joe Stacy, was required by a divorce settlement to send him to spend the summer with his mother, KUTV reported. Joe Stacy and Stephanie Sloop were officially divorced April 28.
Ethan arrived in Utah on May 1. He was locked in his bedroom while the Sloops were married May 6, according to court documents reviewed by KUTV. Ethan, who had been beaten by this time, died three days later at the couple's home in Layton, KUTV reported.
Stephanie Sloop reported Ethan missing May 10; his body was found the next day.
"It's like a nightmare come true," Brenda James, a friend of Joe Stacy's, told KUTV. "I believe that [Nathan Sloop] does not deserve to take another breath."