NewsCrime and Courts


West Yellowstone man sentenced in connection with grandson’s death

James Alexander Hurley
Posted at 5:07 PM, Mar 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-04 19:21:37-05

James Sasser, Jr., of West Yellowstone was sentenced on Friday for his role in the death of his 12-year-old grandson, who was reportedly tortured and killed in Sasser's home.

James Alexander Hurley was found dead in his grandparents’ home in February 2020.

james hurley.jpeg
12-year-old James Alexander Hurley was found dead in his grandparents’ home in the early months of 2020

In August 2021, Sasser Jr. pleaded guilty to the charge of deliberate homicide by association and two others charges: tampering with a witness and criminal endangerment, with prosecutors recommending a combined 120 years in prison at his November sentencing.

Sasser was sentenced on Friday by Judge John Brown to 100 years in prison for the charge of deliberate homicide. He was also sentenced to 10 years for a charge of criminal child endangerment, and 10 years for tampering with evidence.

Patricia Batts, Hurley’s grandmother, is facing counts of deliberate homicide and more.

Batts faces the possibility of the death penalty, which, if carried out, would be the fourth in the state of Montana since the Gregg vs. Georgia decision in 1976.

Sasser Jr & Batts.jpg

Looking back at what former Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin called one of the most disturbing cases of his career, court documents show that detectives found Hurley on the floor of the home, with signs that someone used vinegar to clean up large amounts of blood nearby.

Then, detectives say they found videos involving Batts, Sasser III, Sasser Jr., and in fewer instances Gage Roush during Hurley’s two-year stay with them.

Investigators say video recordings show Hurley’s family beating him with makeshift objects, locking food away from him, and strangling him.

Batts’ trial is set for May 2022.

During an earlier hearing, prosecutors reminded the defendants that Montana is one of 24 states that allow the death penalty - with the last execution in the state dating back to 15 years ago in 2006.