Now, as part of James Sasser Jr.'s plea deal, prosecutors and the defense have agreed that he will be sentenced to 100 years in the Montana state prison for the deliberate homicide charge.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on August 13, 2021. It has since been updated.
Trigger Warning: This story contains details of child abuse and murder that may be disturbing to readers.
James “Alex” Hurley was just 10 years old when his dad died in 2018. He was soon sent to live with his grandparents, hoping that they would be able to provide him with the life he deserves, but unfortunately, that turned out to be a rather fateful decision.
PEOPLE confirms that the deceased boy's grandfather, James Sasser Jr., admitted to taking part in the death of his grandson. He pleaded guilty to felony deliberate homicide, criminal child endangerment, and tampering with a witness on August 9, 2021.
According to Crime Online, Alex was found dead on February 3, 2020, in his family’s West Yellowstone home. Authorities said he was beaten and left to die on the living room floor. Officers who arrived at the scene found numerous wounds and contusions on the boy’s body. They believed that he had suffered extensive torture and abuse at the hands of several family members, including his grandfather.
A West Yellowstone man cut a deal with prosecutors over the murder of his 12-year old grandson, James Alex Hurley, in early 2020. https://t.co/exSqWZxhbR— NBC Montana (@NBCMontana) August 6, 2021
Court documents reveal that multiple family members had videos of themselves verbally berating Alex, spraying him with water, choking him, and beating him with a paddle and other objects. However, the family tried to turn tables by informing authorities that the boy was suicidal and was causing his own injuries. But, forensics revealed that not one injury on his body was self-inflicted.
Five people, who authorities believe were involved in Alex's death, have been arrested: James Sasser Jr.; his wife, Patricia Batts; their 14-year-old son, James Sasser III; their 18-year-old daughter, Madison; and 18-year-old Gage Roush, who is unrelated to the family. James Sasser III pleaded guilty to felony deliberate homicide and was sentenced to juvenile detention until he is 18.
Madison Sasser pleaded guilty to felony aggravated kidnapping and will be on probation until she is 25. As part of her plea agreement, Madison is testifying against her family members. Gage Roush pleaded guilty to assault on a minor in November 2020. He has been given a 5-year deferred sentence.
Grandfather Pleads Guilty to His Role in Torturing 12-Year-Old James Alex Hurley to Death https://t.co/Em6A4yjp9r— Law & Crime (@lawcrimenews) August 9, 2021
It was also revealed that the victim's mother, who was in Texas at the time, tried to get in touch with her son multiple times, but Batts always turned her away.
In one of the videos obtained by a court, Batts can be heard telling Alex that his mother is a “drunk” who hates him. During the investigation, Batts revealed that she allowed her children to physically harm Alex but she allegedly had no idea of the kind of harm being inflicted on him.
An autopsy revealed that Alex died from trauma to the back of his head. Batts told investigators that Alex was moaning and mumbling —while he slept on the living room floor— before she found him dead the next morning. No one in the house sought medical aid for the boy before his death.
Meanwhile, James Sasser Jr. told investigators that he was thinking of divorcing his wife since believed the punishments were too much. He wanted to move out of the home with his children and raise them on his own.
Patricia Batts is still awaiting trial, but she is charged with deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping, criminal child endangerment, and strangulation of a partner or family member. Prosecutors told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that they are seeking the death penalty in her case. She has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bond.
Now, as part of James Sasser Jr.'s plea deal, prosecutors and the defense have agreed that he will be sentenced to 100 years in the Montana state prison for the deliberate homicide charge, 10 years in prison for the criminal child endangerment charge, and 10 years in prison for witness tampering. All sentences will run concurrently.
Cover Image Source: YouTube | KTVQ News (Another man charged in connection with homicide of West Yellowstone boy)