‘Some of the Most Horrible Things That I’ve Seen in My 16 Years on the Bench’: Judge Sentences Montana Man to Century in Prison for Grandson’s Death

‘Some of the Most Horrible Things That I’ve Seen in My 16 Years on the Bench’: Judge Sentences Montana Man to Century in Prison for Grandson’s Death

A 49-year-old Montana man is set to spend the rest of his life behind bars for killing his 12-year-old grandson.

Montana District Court Judge John C. Brown on Friday sentenced James Sasser Jr. to 100 years in prison for felonies in connection with the 2020 death of James Alex Hurley, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

Sasser Jr. previously pleaded guilty to one count of deliberate homicide, one count of tampering with a witness, and one count of criminal child endangerment. Judge Brown sentenced Sasser Jr. to 100 years on the homicide charge and 10 years each for the lesser charges, to be served concurrently.

According to the Daily Chronicle, Sasser Jr. addressed the court during Friday’s proceeding, conceding that his failure to protect his grandson warranted punishment.

“I should have been a protector. I wasn’t. I failed,” Sasser Jr. reportedly said. “I failed my kids, all of them. Their lives are destroyed, [Alex’s mother’s] life is destroyed. I deserve whatever you do.”

Deputy Gallatin County Attorneys Bjorn Boyer and Marty Lambert reportedly played nine different video and audio recordings made by members of Hurley’s family that evinced the suffering he endured at the hands of Sasser Jr. and other members of the family, including Patricia Batts, Sasser Jr.’s wife and Hurley’s grandmother.

“You’re a nothing, a nobody that no one will ever like. They’ll make fun of you your whole goddamn life,” Sasser Jr. could reportedly be heard yelling at Hurley in one of the videos. Other videos reportedly showed Batts physically abusing the child, who could reportedly be seen growing increasingly emaciated over the course of the videos.

James Alex Hurley.

“These videos are some of the most horrible things that I’ve seen in my 16 years on the bench,” Judge Brown reportedly said. “ [Alex] was dying when those videos were taken, and that’s what we saw today.”

Judge Brown continued to slam Sasser Jr. after prosecutors played the recordings.

“No greater harm could have been caused to James Alex Hurley, an innocent 12-year-old kid,” he reportedly said. “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 whole time he resided with the Sasser family until the time of his death.”

Authorities on Feb. 3, 2020 found Hurley dead in his grandparents’ home following weeks of torture at the hands of his own family, prosecutors said. A then-14-year-old James Sasser III, the boy’s uncle, delivered the fatal blow to Hurley, striking his young nephew in the head with a wooden paddle. Sasser III last year reached a deal with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide in exchange for a sentence that includes juvenile detention and adult probation.

Four of the five people charged in Hurley’s death were related to the young boy, including Patricia Batts, Sasser Jr.’s wife and Hurley’s grandmother, and Madison Sasser, Hurley’s young aunt. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Batts, who is charged with deliberate homicide in the death of a child aggravated kidnapping, criminal child endangerment, and strangulation of a partner or family member.

Madison Sasser was sentenced last year for a count of felony aggravated kidnapping, getting youth probation until 21, then adult probation until 25.

Gage Roush, who is not related to the family, was charged after authorities said he hit James Hurley with a paddle. He pleaded guilty to assault on a minor and received a five-year deferred sentence.

Sasser Jr.’s attorney, Colin M. Stephens, reportedly argued that his client was lower in “the hierarchy of evil” than his wife. Stephens reportedly told the court that Batts lied to Sasser Jr. about Hurley having violent tendencies and claimed that when he tried to leave Batts she threatened that he would never see their children again.

Batts has denied that she was responsible for her grandson’s death, but she admitted to making him perform “wall sits,” and jumping jacks, authorities have said. She also allegedly made him stand in front of fans half-naked while being squirted with water.

Batts is scheduled to go on trial in May.
‘Some of the Most Horrible Things That I’ve Seen in My 16 Years on the Bench’: Judge Sentences Montana Man to Century in Prison for Grandson’s Death
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