James Alex Hurley's grandma faces death penalty over 'systematic torture' leading to 12-year-old's death
Montana prosecutors are seeking death penalty against a grandmother over the alleged "systematic torture" of her 12-year-old grandson.
48-year-old Patricia Batts had been accused of murdering her grandson, James Alex Hurley along with two of her children. The child's body had been found emaciated and beaten in February. On February 3, James' body was found by Gallatin County deputies at his grandparents' home located in West Yellowstone.
According to the Great Falls television station KRTV, Gallatin County Attorney's Office had filed papers that indicated that they would be seeking capital punishment against Batts. KTVH-DT revealed that Gallatin County Deputy Attorney Bjorn Boyer said, "I believe the systematic torture and beatings [were] perpetrated on the victim in this case that led to his death."
"She (Batts) is on a lot of the videos that show the torture to this young boy. She’s in the videos seen strangling the boy," Boyer added.
The authorities had immediately grown suspicious when they found his body with many bruises and marks. There was also a mysterious gash on the back of his neck, as per a criminal complaint that was obtained by Oxygen.
Detectives revealed that the child had "severe" bruising on his backside it seemed as though a "large" amount of blood had been scrubbed up. James had been staying with his grandparents and their children who are not the boy's mother or father for a two year period.
According to Gallatin County Jail records, authorities arrested James' grandfather, James Sasser Jr, grandmother, Patricia Batts, and her teenage son post the young boy's death and charged them with deliberate homicide. They had also arrested Batts' daughter, Madison Sasser who has been charged with aggravated kidnapping and negligent homicide.
Around the time that James' died, he seemed to be emaciated although video clips from two years before showed him healthy, court documents have revealed. Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin shared that the case is the worst he has seen during his career.
"The preliminary report from Doctor Prasher was blunt force trauma to the back of James' head. There are rumors flying around that James had committed suicide. That is absolutely not true. There’s no evidence to support that. As a matter of fact, we have three people in custody for the exact opposite," Gootkin shared.
The news of the torture of James came as a shock to one of Batts' closest friends. While choosing to remain anonymous, the woman revealed, "Before it was confirmed to me, personally, that it was them, that these were...this was my friend that did this, I couldn’t help but go to what this was like for him and how scared he must have been."
"I knew something was wrong and I encouraged her repeatedly to get him some help and have him put somewhere and she just really expressed that she just did not like him. I trusted this woman. I’ve known her since 2008. I’m just reeling. I’m devastated for this little boy," the woman added.
Batts is currently being held on a $750,000 while Sasser Jr is being held on $500,000 along with James' uncle.