A 49-year-old man was handed a 100-year prison sentence last week for the beating death of his 12-year-old grandson in 2020.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, on Friday, March 4, Judge John Brown sentenced James Sasser Jr. to 100 years for felony deliberate homicide, 10 years for felony child endangerment, and 10 years for tampering with a witness in the death of James “Alex” Hurley.
The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office said Feb. 12, 2020, that they arrested Sasser Jr., his wife Patricia Batts, and Hurley’s uncle, a juvenile, for deliberate homicide. Hurley was found dead on or around Feb. 3, 2020, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports Hurley suffered bruising all over his body and died from blunt force trauma to the head. Hurley’s uncle James Sasser III, who was 14 at the time, reportedly hit him over the head with a wooden paddle, which is what killed him.
Sasser III reportedly pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide in October 2020 and is serving time until he is 18, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Sasser Jr. reportedly did not help Hurley when Sasser III hit the boy and allegedly encouraged the physical and verbal abuse from other family members.
A video played in court reportedly showed Sasser Jr. telling his grandson, “You’re a nothing, a nobody that no one will ever like. They’ll make fun of you your whole goddamn life.”
Sasser and Batts’ young son could reportedly be heard laughing in the background while this was happening. The prosecutor Bjorn Boyer said, “You can tell that the defendant was almost taking enjoyment in berating Alex,” and that the 5-year-old likely viewed the abuse as “normal.”
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Sasser Jr.’s attorneys portrayed him as a victim to his own wife. Batts allegedly threatened Sasser Jr. that if he left her, he would not see their children ever again.
Sasser Jr.’s attorney said, “He could not believe that the woman he’d been married to for so long repeatedly lied to him about horrible things, and that’s the context in which these equally horrible things occur.”
According to The Associated Press, Sasser Jr., Sasser III, and Batts reportedly locked up food and took Hurley out of school months before he died.
Hurley reportedly moved to West Yellowstone to spend a year with his father, who is Batts’ son. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, his father died and Hurley moved in with his grandparents.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports Judge Brown said during the sentencing, “No greater harm could have been caused to James Alex Hurley, an innocent 12-year-old kid. 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.”
Sasser Jr. said before the court, “I should have been a protector. I wasn’t. I failed.”