Alex Hurley was taken in by his father’s family after his father’s death in early 2018. Two years later, at the age of 12, he was dead, and five individuals were charged in connection with his abuse and death.
Those individuals included his paternal grandmother, 48-year-old Patricia Lynn Batts; her husband, 47-year-old James Danny Sasser Jr.; their 18-year-old daughter, Madison Sasser; her 14-year-old brother, James Danny Sasser III; and 18-year-old family friend Gage Roush.
Alex endured two years of torture and brutal abuse, much of which was captured on video, at the hands of this fiendish family, who likely only took him in for financial reasons. They reportedly kept him from his mother, Alicia Davis, despite her attempts to contact him.
I’ve covered Alex’s story extensively on the blog, so I won’t rehash the ugly details in this post. (Click here to view previous posts about Alex.) I’ll get straight to the point.
James Sasser III, who is now 15 years old, accepted a plea deal yesterday (Thursday, October 29) in Gallatin County court. As part of the agreement, Judge John Brown declared he would not charge James as an adult; the prosecution, led by Prosecutor Bjorn Boyer, agreed with his decision, although they had initially requested the adult charge. James was charged with felony deliberate homicide by accountability.
I am only naming James, who is a juvenile, because his name has been published in the media since the case broke after Alex’s death on February 3, 2020.
Due to his acceptance of the plea agreement, James immediately received his sentence. He was ordered to be imprisoned at a juvenile detention facility until he turns 18. Once he is released, he will remain on probation until he is 25; he has been ordered to remain in mental health counseling during the entirety of his detention and probation. He will not be required to register as a violent offender, and he cannot have unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 18, with the exception of fellow detainees. He was also ordered to pay $500 in restitution to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund.
In a written statement detailing the crime, James said he had been duct taped to Alex the night before his nephew’s death, which was a common tactic employed by the freakish family, supposedly to prevent Alex from running away. “I woke up and the duct tape was almost off,” James wrote. “I re-taped it with one little line of tape. After that, Alex moved and my arm touched the heater. I got up and started punching him. I pushed him and he fell into the wall. His head crashed into the wall and I punched him and pushed him over. I caused him serious bodily injury and I believe that led to Alex’s death. Alex died sometime that next night.”
Patricia Batts and James Sasser Jr. are still being held in the Gallatin County jail. I was unable to find the status of either Madison Sasser or Gage Roush. I wouldn’t be terribly shocked if either or both of them were released on bail.
Patricia’s charges include deliberate homicide, strangulation of a family member, aggravated kidnapping, and child endangerment. James has been charged with deliberate homicide and criminal child endangerment and is scheduled for a jury trial in March of 2021. Madison’s charges include negligent homicide and aggravated kidnapping, and Gage has been charged with felony assault on a minor.
As for the plea agreement and sentence James Sasser III received, my feelings are mixed. I was very strongly against him being tried as an adult, because at the age of 14, his brain wasn’t even halfway to being fully developed. Hard prison time wouldn’t benefit him nor anyone he encountered once he was released; in fact, it can be exceptionally damaging to adolescents. I believe he will need intensive mental health treatment to overcome the brainwashing heaped upon him by his narcissistic mother, who was clearly the ringleader of the whole operation. We can only hope the therapy he is ordered to continue until he reaches the age of 25 will be able to accomplish that.
No matter how you slice it, this story embodies tragedy from all angles.
Sources: KULR8, VineLINK