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Woman Sentenced in Death of 12-Year-Old Nephew, Agrees to Testify Against Her Parents


James Alex Hurley

There’s another defendant down in the beating death of 12-year-old Montana boy James Alex Hurley. This time it is his aunt, Madison Sasser, 19, who was sentenced on Friday for a count of felony aggravated kidnapping, according to The Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Sasser will dodge time in adult prison, spending youth probation with the Montana Department of Corrections until age 21, then adult probation until 25. In return, she is set to testify against her parents Patricia Batts, and James Sasser Jr. The victim’s 15-year-old uncle, James Sasser III, took a plea deal last year for for deliberate homicide, getting juvenile detention and some adult probation in return. Another man, Gage Roush, was also charged after allegedly hitting the boy with a paddle.

Prosecutors say defendants subjected the victim–whose father had died and whose mother lived in Texas–to a campaign of torture. Investigators cited video in which Hurley was forced to perform jumping jacks even though he said he needed to go to the bathroom, being beaten, or having to stand in front of a fan in his underwear.

“Oh, you’re not even a human,” Batts, the boy’s grandmother, allegedly said in one instance. “You’re some kind of thing.”

Investigators said Hurley was found dead at the family’s home on February 3, 2020.

Police cited evidence that the teenage uncle–who weighed 197 pounds more than the victim, and was 9 inches taller–texted Sasser Jr. “I’m gonna end up killing him today,” and searched coma and concussion-related matters several days before the discovery of the body. Sasser III allegedly admitted to detectives he hit the child with a paddle.

Text messages cited by authorities showed Madison Sasser confessing to her boyfriend she was “heartless” to Hurley, and that she beat him and her hands hurt.

The teen aunt’s attorney is shifting blame from the younger defendants to their parents, describing the home as a “war zone.” She asserted her client was immature for her age, contrite for her age, and had wanted to please her parents.

“Alex was the enemy,” Elisabeth Montoya said. “And Madison’s parents were the generals. And the other kids in the household … were soldiers.”

[Image via Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office]

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