Case Update: Madison Sasser Enters Plea in Alex Hurley Case, and Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty Against Patricia Batts

James Alexander Hurley wearing a blue t-shirt reading "Dirt: Boy Glitter"
James Alexander “Alex” Hurley.
(Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office)

There has been some movement, albeit incremental, over the past week in the murder case of James Alexander Hurley

Alex, as you all know, is the 12-year-old Montana boy who was allegedly beaten to death in February. Five people, including his paternal grandmother, grandfather, 14-year-old uncle, and 18-year-old aunt, as well as a family friend, have been charged in connection with Alex’s death. 

We’ll start with an update on Alex’s 18-year-old aunt, Madison Sasser, who was the last of the five suspects to be arrested. 

On Friday, May 8, Madison appeared before Judge Holly Brown in Gallatin County District Court alongside her attorney, Elisabeth Montoya, where she entered a not guilty plea to both of her charges. 

Madison Sasser's mugshot
Madison Sasser’s mugshot.
(Montgomery County Jail)

Madison was taken into custody in March in Texas, where she was holed up in her older sister’s apartment. She has been charged with two felonies: aggravated kidnapping and negligent homicide.

The aggravated kidnapping charge stems from an incident in December, during which a neighbor heard screaming and witnessed Alex bolt from the Sasser house in West Yellowstone, running as fast as he could. Madison and her mother, Alex’s grandmother, Patricia Batts, caught up to Alex and held him until 14-year-old James Sasser III, the younger boy’s uncle, could catch up. The 300-pound teenager then dragged barely-100-pound Alex back to the house, punching him repeatedly in the face. 

Madison’s charge of negligent homicide comes from evidence showing she knew about the way her younger brother and her mother physically abused Alex, including witnessing James III smashing Alex’s head into a wall so hard it left a dent in the plaster just two days before Alex died, but the callous little shit did nothing to prevent her nephew’s death.

Text messages Madison sent her boyfriend also appear to prove that she was involved in Alex’s abuse.

James Alexander Hurley
Alex Hurley.

“I’m so heartless to him dude honestly,” the messages read. “I beat the shit out of him just now.” She later added in another message that she “beat the shit outta him my fucking hands hurt.” 

The charging documents include a request for the court to try Madison as an adult, as she was 17 when she allegedly committed the kidnapping offense. 

The next update in Alex’s case involves his grandmother, Patricia “Sea Hag” Batts. (That nickname is, of course, unofficial. Not sorry.) Also on Friday, Gallatin County Prosecutor Bjorn Boyer filed a notice with the court stating his intention to seek the death penalty against Patricia, who has been charged with four felonies: deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping, criminal child endangerment, and strangulation of a partner or family member.

Patricia Batts in court
Alleged sea hag, Patricia Batts.

Prosecutor Boyer said the state will prove that Alex’s murder involved aggravated circumstances and torture. If you’ve read any of my previous articles about this case, you’re familiar with the details. 

According to police, a large amount of the alleged abuse was filmed, and the videos were discovered via search warrant on the family’s mobile phones.

Patricia’s husband, James Sasser Jr., has also been charged with deliberate homicide, as has the couple’s 14-year-old son, James Sasser III. James Jr. has also been charged with felony criminal child endangerment. A family friend, 18-year-old Gage Roush, has been charged with felony assault on a minor thanks to a video that prosecutors say depicts Gage hitting Alex with a wooden paddle in January. All of them have pleaded not guilty to their respective charges.

Court documents allege that Patricia was the ringleader of this fucked-up family circus, initiating the culture of abuse in the home against her dead son’s little boy by beating and torturing him and guiding her monstrous teenagers to do the same. Her husband, who likely stood by with that “hurr durr” look on his face, told police that he thought the “punishments” his wife doled out against her grandson were too extreme and that he wanted to divorce her and raise the kids on his own. 

James Alexander Hurley
Alex Hurley.
(Blue Bonnet News)

Yeah, well… daydreams won’t keep you out of prison, dipshit, especially when action, not fantasies, might have saved a 12-year-old boy’s life.

Their six-year-old son also witnessed Alex’s torture, and, based on the little boy’s behavior in the videos police found, it was so common he barely batted an eye at it. Un-fucking-real.

Patricia told police she had no idea how her grandson died and that she did not believe she was responsible for his death. (Psychopath much?)

Patricia, James Jr., Madison, and Gage are all being held at the Gallatin County jail, while underage James III is housed at the Yellowstone Youth Services Center in Billings. It has not yet been determined if James III will be tried as a juvenile or as an adult.

As in the case of Ame Deal’s convicted killers Sammantha and John Allen in Arizona, whether or not the death penalty would ever be carried out is up in the air. The last time an inmate in Montana was executed was in 2006. There are currently two people on Montana’s death row in the maximum security unit at Montana State Prison: William Jay Gollehon, who was convicted in 1992 of deliberate homicide after murdering five other inmates during a prison riot in 1991, and Ronald Allen Smith, who was convicted in 1983 of two counts each of deliberate homicide and aggravated kidnapping. 

Left: William Jay Gollehon. Right: Ronald Allen Smith.
(Montana state website)

Smith, who is unfortunately from my home province of Alberta (Canada), was hitchhiking while under the influence of LSD in 1982 when he and an accomplice thanked two indigenous men, cousins 23-year-old Harvey Mad Man and 20-year-old Thomas Running Rabbit, for offering them a ride by forcing them into the woods and shooting both of them in the head.

Even Canada basically said “fuck that guy,” announcing in 2007 that it would not seek clemency for Smith, saying “that multiple murderers and mass murderers who are convicted in a democracy that adheres to the rule of law cannot necessarily count on a plea for clemency from the Canadian government and patriation back to this country.” 

Remember the victims: Harvey Mad Man (left) and Thomas Running Rabbit (right).
(The Calgary Herald)

That POS was sentenced to die 37 years ago, and he’s still on death row. It says a lot about this case that prosecutors are even bothering to seek the death penalty. It may be more of a symbolic gesture than anything, and I am staunchly against capital punishment for a variety of reasons, but if the allegations against Patricia Batts are true, there is no one more deserving of the ultimate punishment.

Alex Hurley spent the last several months of his life in terror and agony at the hands of his late father’s family. He absolutely deserves justice.

In loving memory of Alex (James Alexander Hurley)

Sources: The Bozeman Daily Chronicle,, Wikipedia


  1. Hi, I just read about this whole story a few days ago, on my phone. I’m a 68 year-old man from Pennsylvania, and this is so sad to read, that I cried like a baby when I read about it. What I can’t understand is why Alex couldn’t escape while the family was sleeping, or run to a neighbor’s house and bang on someone’s door. His grandmother would do this to her own SON’S little boy. It’s so unreal to me that his own “blood relatives” could do this to him. I wish I would have lived close enough to rescue him. SO SAD !

    • Hi, David! Alex’s story is one of the saddest I’ve ever heard. The only silver lining is that he’s out of pain and in his daddy’s arms again. Thank you for reading!

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