Man sentenced to 100 years for his role in death of 12-year-old grandson

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

Bozeman, Montana: On February 3, 2020 12-year-old James Alex Hurley was found dead.


By February 12, 2020 both of his grandparents, James Sasser Jr. and Patricia Batts, as well as his teen uncle, James Sasser III, had been arrested and charged with his murder.


By the end of the investigation, five people had been arrested and charged in relation to his death, including Madison Sasser, his young aunt and Gage Roush, a friend of Sasser III and the only non-relative charged.


49-year-old James Sasser Jr. was charged with deliberate homicide, felony child endangerment and felony tampering with a witness. In August 2021 he pleaded guilty to the charges against him and on Friday, March 4, 2021 he was sentenced by District Court Judge John Brown.


Sasser Jr. took advantage of his opportunity to address the court saying before he was sentenced saying, "I should have been a protector. I wasn't. I failed. I failed my kids, all of them. Their lives are destroyed, [Alex's mother's] life is destroyed... I deserve whatever you do."


As required by Montana law, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Brown explained his reasons for the sentence before making his announcement.


"No greater harm could have been caused to James Alex Hurley, an innocent 12-year-old kid. It's clear that during the entire time that Alex resided with the Sassers, that he was subject systematically to both physical and mental and emotional abuse and I think that continued during the while time he resided with the Sasser family until the time of his death."


Brown sentenced Sasser Jr. to 100 years in prison on the charge of deliberate homicide and 10 years for each of the additional charges with those sentences running concurrently.


Alex's 14-year-old uncle, James Sasser III was charged as a juvenile with deliberate homicide after he admitted to investigators that he kicked Alex in the head multiple times in the 24-36 hours before his death. Sasser III was sentenced to a juvenile detention facility until he turns 18 at which time he will be on probation until he turns 25.


19-year-old Madison Sasser, was charged with felony aggravated kidnapping. She accepted a plea deal and plead guilty to the charge. That deal saw the charge of deliberate homicide dropped in exchange for her testimony against her parents. She is on youth probation until she is 21 at which time she will be transferred to adult probation to the age of 25.


Gage Roush plead guilty to a charge of assault on a minor for hitting Alex with a paddle. He was given a five year deferred sentence.


The case against Patricia Batts is scheduled to begin in May, 2022.


Since the beginning, she has been identified as the primary party responsible for the abuse and so, prosecutors have made it clear that they intend to seek the death penalty.


Batts has pleaded not guilty to charges of deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping, criminal child endangerment and strangulation of a partner or family member.