On Sunday, February 23, a vigil was held in memory of 12-year-old James Alexander “Alex” Hurley, who was found dead from head injuries on February 3 in the West Yellowstone, Montana home of his paternal grandmother, her husband, and her 14-year-old son, who was Alex’s uncle.
The three have been arrested and charged in Alex’s murder, along with a fourth, unrelated man.
Attendees at the vigil wore blue ribbons symbolizing child abuse awareness.
“Unfortunately, even though we’re still in the 21st century, it still occurs today,” said West Yellowstone Police Chief Scott Newell. “We hope that we can take advantage of this opportunity to raise awareness of child abuse.”
About 200 people attended the vigil, which was held at Pioneer Park in West Yellowstone. Speakers stood on a stage made of snow while they read bible verses and poems, sang songs, and talked about their anger, frustration, and sadness over Alex’s death.
Toni Brey described Alex as an all-American boy who, whenever he saw her, greeted her with a smile and a hug. “I think of the bravery and the strength it takes to be a light when the darkness is all around you,” Toni said. “When it threatens to consume you — to smile when others make you cry.”
“We have tremendous love for this community and a tremendous care for one another,” Chief Newell told a reporter. “We all experience a range of emotions from grief, to anger, back to grief, to crying, and then frustration. Hopefully we see the light through this.”
Regarding the community’s failure to recognize the abuse Alex suffered before it was too late, she added, “We feel like we came up far too short in protecting one of our own.”
James’s grandmother, Patricia Batts, her husband, James Sasser Jr., and their 14-year-old son, James Sasser III, as well as a friend, Gage Roush, face charges in Alex’s death. They are being represented by public defenders Annie DeWolf and Ryan Peabody.
Sources: NBC Montana, Flathead Beacon, KVTQ, Helena Independent Record