Montana boy murdered by grandparents was kept for $700 child support and wasn't allowed to talk to his mom

Montana boy murdered by grandparents was kept for $700 child support and wasn't allowed to talk to his mom
(Gallatin County Sheriff's Office)

The mother of 12-year-old James Alexander Hurley from Montana, who was murdered by his grandparents, said she believes that the couple only wanted the boy to live with them so that they could collect $700 every month as child support check, reports state. The boy's grandparents, 47-year-old James Sasser Jr and 48-year-old Patricia Batts, were arrested on March 20 and formally charged for beating Hurley to death, aided by their 14-year-old son James Sasser III.

It has been alleged that the trio inflicted systematic abuse on the child, regularly beating him with a wooden paddle, hosing him down with ice water and forcing him to go days without sleep. The couple's daughter, 18-year-old Madison, is also believed to be a witness of the abuse. She even sent a text to her boyfriend describing the child as "a piece of (crap) off of my f**king shoe," the Daily Mail reported. 

A police affidavit stated that the child was made to sit half-naked in front of fans and sprayed with water. According to court papers, Batts said: "That's what they do with cats, right?" She also described Hurley as a "bad child" because of his ADHD and told officials he "drove her nuts".

The child's mother, 36-year-old Alicia Davis, has now revealed that she had initiated the legal process to try and get her son back from his grandparents when he died. Davis, a home help from Cleveland, said that Batts had prevented her from speaking to her son since the summer of 2019. Davis added that she believes that the only reason the couple wanted Hurley with them was so that they could profit from his child support checks.

"I'm surprised they called 911. Had that not happened, I wonder what they would have done," Davis said. "They probably would have hid his body up in the mountains and kept collecting that stupid check. Stupid $700 a month. I think that's why they wanted to keep him. It's stupid. Ain't no money worth it."

"I barely make ends meet, I barely make enough to be able to pay my own way in life but I wouldn't keep a child just for the money. Children deserve more than what we're giving," she added.

The mother said that she remembers her son as a happy child who "loved life" and would go out of his way to cheer people up. However, that changed when Hurley moved to live with his father Tommy Tate in Montana. Tate, Batt's son from a previous relationship, was paralyzed in an ATV accident in 2013 and eventually died in January 2018 after developing an infection. "He was a phenomenal dad," Davis said of Tate. 

"James Sasser Jr, I never met him. But the Patricia I knew was a religious woman. I never would have thought she would do this. I thought she was a good person," she said.

After Tate's death, Davis had decided to leave her son in Montana to complete the school year because he had told her he was happy there. "I thought he was in a good home up there with grandparents. Grandparents are spoilage, love, cookies so I thought he was growing up in a good home and giving him a better opportunity," she said.

Davis said that she became concerned about the boy when Batts began to restrict her calls to him. Bats eventually cut off all contact after Davis insisted on taking her son back with her. 

"In the beginning they did let me talk to him. But then when I told her I wanted him back, they shut down all communications," Davis said. "I was going the legal way of proving that she didn't have custodial rights to him and his dad was the only one I gave custodial rights to, but finances... When his dad first died, I let him stay up there because he was telling me, 'it's great mom, I want to be up here'."

"So I was like, that's okay, you're doing good. You can stay up there as long as you're doing good. And from my understanding, she told me she was taking him to the mental health doctor, he was doing good in school, he was learning work ethics," the mother continued. "Then I get the phone call that my child has been beaten to death."

The couple is currently being held at the Gallatin County Detention Center in Bozeman, Montana, while their son, James Sasser III, has been locked up at the Yellowstone County Youth Correctional Center in Billings. Meanwhile, Madison, who fled to her friend's house in Texas, is currently awaiting extradition to Montana in the Montgomery County Jail in New Caney. 

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