Grandparents and teen uncle arrested for death of boy

James Hurley [Image credit: Gallatin County Sheriff's Office]

On February 3rd, a Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputy responded to a call to a residence where 12-year-old James Hurley was found deceased.


The preliminary report indicated that Hurley died from blunt force trauma to the head.  Before the final report is written though, the doctor wished to wait for the return of the toxicology report.


While investigating the matter, officers located numerous videos on cell phones belonging to Hurley's teen uncle, 14-year-old James Sasser III and his grandmother, 48-year-old Patricia Batts.


In one of those videos recovered, Batts is heard telling Hurley, “Oh, you’re not even a human, you’re some kind of thing.”  In another Batts tells him, "who cares" in response to Hurley stating several times that his head hurts.


The family initially issued statements that Hurley had allegedly heard voices telling him to kill different people, and that he would self-harm and was suicidal.  Since those statements though, the prosecutor stated that they have admitted to over exaggerating the victim's mental health issues.


Detectives noted that there is no record of the family ever reporting either behavioral or mental health issues to authorities or mental health professionals.


The family has also not denied that the Sasser III, who despite being 14 is described by a detective as being 6 foot and 300 pounds, contrasted to Hurley's 5 foot 3 inch 100 pound stature, constructed a wooden paddle that he would use against his nephew.


Sasser III has denied hitting Hurley in the head with the paddle, but forensics teams have found signs that there were considerable amounts of blood cleaned from the floor of the home and other locations within.


The final individual arrested was Hurley's grandfather, 47-year-old James Sasser Jr.


Hurley had been living with his extended family for two years.  He had initially gone to Montana to live with his father while his mother remained in Texas.  Two years ago his father died and he moved in with Batts and the Sassers.


When contacted by detectives, Hurley's mother stated that any attempts to reach Hurley on the phone had been stymied by Batts.


Bail was set at $500,000 for Sasser Jr and Sasser III, and $750,000 for Batts.  Sasser III's bail was set at $50,000.  It has not yet been determined if he will be charged as an adult.  He remains in custody at the juvenile detention center.


The three were arrested on February 12th and charged with deliberate homicide.