Case Update: 12-Year-Old Alex Hurley’s Grandfather Pleads Guilty

James Alexander Hurley
James Alexander “Alex” Hurley.
(Blue Bonnet News)

My apologies for being a couple days late on this update. Keeping ongoing cases updated on the blog has been a challenge for me lately!

In any case, we’re one step closer to justice being served for 12-year-old Alex Hurley, who died from blunt force trauma in February of 2020 in West Yellowstone, Montana after being kicked in the head by his teenage uncle. Due to evidence that Alex was abused and tortured for months, including video of the family tormenting the child, five people were ultimately charged in relation to Alex’s death: his paternal grandmother; her husband; her 18-year-old daughter; the couple’s 14-year-old son; and a family friend.

For more background on Alex’s story, click here.

At a brief plea change hearing on Friday, August 6, 2021, James Sasser Jr., who described himself as Alex’s “granddad,” pleaded guilty to three felony charges: deliberate homicide, tampering with a witness, and criminal child endangerment.

Through his attorney, Colin M. Stephens, James admitted under oath during the hearing that his grandson’s death was “the result of an aggravated assault by James III.” James himself spoke few words during the hearing other than “yes, sir,” “yes,” and “yeah.”

James Sasser Jr. in court on August 6, 2021.
(Samuel Wilson/Chronicle/Report for America)

Gallatin County District Court Judge John Brown asked James if he understood the gravity of admitting guilt, saying, “That’s the strongest proof of your guilt known to the criminal law, sir.”

In the plea agreement, prosecutors Bjorn E. Boyer and Marty Lambert recommended James be sentenced to 100 years for the deliberate homicide charge, 10 years for the criminal child endangerment charge, and 10 years for the witness tampering charge, all of which would be served concurrently in Montana state prison with none suspended. They agreed that James should be allowed to make his own sentencing recommendation at his full-day sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for 9:00 AM on Tuesday, November 9, 2021.

James Sasser Jr. leaving the hearing on Friday, August 6, 2021.
(Samuel Wilson/Chronicle/Report for America)

Due to James’s guilty plea, all motions in the case have been dismissed except one that remains to be determined, which argues to allow contact between James Jr. and his son, James III.

When James Sasser Jr. is sentenced, that will leave only one of the accused to go: Patricia Batts, whose trial is scheduled to take place in 2022. The prosecution has previously stated it will seek the death penalty for ol’ Trish. I’m very much against the death penalty, but I can’t lie: I won’t cry a single tear if that ends up being her fate. After following this case as closely as I have for a year and a half, I have zero sympathy for the ringleader of the nightmarish Sasser family circus.

There will be justice for Alex, who didn’t deserve anything that happened to him. Rest well, sweet boy.

Click here for my ongoing coverage of Alex’s story, and click here to listen to my podcast episode about Alex. (Warning: it was a very early episode, so be gentle!)

Sources: The Bozeman Daily Chronicle

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