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Prosecutor wants death penalty for grandmother of murdered West Yellowstone boy

FAMILY PHOTO (Picture of 12-year old James Alex Hurley)
Patricia Batts in court
Patricia Batts and James Sasser, Jr
Madison Sasser
Posted at 7:52 AM, May 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-10 10:04:20-04

BOZEMAN — Paperwork requesting the death penalty for Patricia Batts, a West Yellowstone woman accused of “systematically torturing” and murdering her grandson, was filed on Friday by the Gallatin County Attorney’s Office.

Batts is charged with deliberate homicide by association for the death of her grandson, 12-year-old James Alexander Hurley.

Also charged in connection to Hurley’s death is his grandfather, James Sasser Jr., his 14-year-old uncle, James Sasser III, his aunt Madison Sasser, and one of Sasser III’s friends, Gage Roush.

Investigators say in court documents that Batts tortured Hurley, with Sasser III and Roush taking part in videos of the acts. And according to the County Attorney’s office, torture is grounds to request the death penalty.

They also add that Sasser III’s status as a juvenile or an adult is still being discussed by the courts.

Batts’ bail remains at $750,000.

Cell phones belonging to Batts, Sasser Jr. Madison Sasser and the 14-year-old uncle were seized by detectives. In reviewing the various phones, detectives found videos of what appeared to be the family torturing Hurley, including:

  • On December 12, 2019 a video on Batts’ phone shows the boy doing forced jumping jacks while holding his buttocks area, crying and saying he has to go to the bathroom. Batts reportedly can be heard in the video mocking him.
  • On January 10, 2020, a video on Batts’ phone shows the boy standing near the garage door, bent over holding his head in his hands, rocking back and forth saying “no” and moaning. Another video, time-stamped 2 minutes later, shows the boy crying and saying, “Ow, it hurts so bad.”
  • Several videos show the boy being forced to sit against the wall or door to the garage in a squat position
  • Several other videos show the boy being forced to do jumping jacks as punishment.
  • On January 10, 2020, a video on the 14-year-old uncle show the boy sitting against the door to the garage, crying: “I f###ing hate this.” A larger male can be seen on the video hitting the boy with a piece of wood. The boy is heard screaming about committing suicide.
  • On January 17, 2020 a video on Batts’ phone shows the boy has cuts on his face and wrist.
  • On January 23, 2020 a video on Batts’ phone shows the boy against the front wall of the house, pinned between the wall and the couch with his arms in the air above his head. He reportedly does not have a shirt on and has red marks and injuries to his shoulder. The boy can reportedly be seen starting to fall asleep, resting his head against the window trim. Batts can be heard saying “Wake up! Get your f###ing head off there!” In another video, Batts can be heard telling the boy to keep his hands apart and open in the air. Hurley is crying and visibly shaking, saying that he hurts and his head hurts. Batts can be heard reportedly saying, “Who cares.”
  • On January 27, 2020 a video on Batts’ phone shows the boy only wearing underwear, being forced to stand in front of fans in the dining room. Throughout the video Batts is heard berating the boy, while the 6-year-old uncle is seen, acting as if it were a normal occurrence.
  • Another video from January 17, 2020 on the 14-year-old uncle’s phone shows Hurley standing in front of the fan in his underwear. Batts can allegedly be heard telling him, “Oh, you’re not even a human, you’re some kind of thing.”

When detectives located videos of Hurley from approximately two years ago, the boy appeared to be a healthy and well-fed boy. At the time of his death, detectives observed that Hurley appeared to be emaciated. Detectives also observed that a good portion of the food in the house was locked away and the boy would not have access to it.

On January 17, Sasser III texted Sasser Jr. at 8:07 a.m. “I’m gonna end up killing him today.” On January 27, the 14-year-old searched for “what was the longest coma?” On February 2, he searched for “what are the symptoms of brain injury?” “Concussion symptoms” and “how do you tell if someone has a concussion?”