James Alex Hurley, age 12, who went by Alex, was tortured and murdered by his grandparents, James Sasser, Jr. and Patricia Batts, and their 14-year-old son, J.S. A family friend, Gage Roush, was also charged in connection with Alex’s death. Alex also lived with his 18-year-old aunt M.S. and his 6-year-old uncle H.S. Alex was homeschooled.
Alex originally lived with his mother, Alicia Davis, in Texas. Davis sent Alex to Montana to live with his father, Tommy Tate, but Tate died in early 2018. After Tate’s death, Alex moved in with Batts, who was Tate’s mother. Batts, Sasser, and J.S. claimed that Alex’s behavior became erratic after he moved in with them. However, there is no record that Batts and Sasser ever sought help for Alex, whose behavior was consistent with severe ADHD, according to a school superintendent.
Alex was withdrawn from school in September 2019 and “Batts filed paperwork with the West Yellowstone School District to homeschool” him. “Batts struggled with the task and said she would make Alex do jumping jacks and ‘wall sits’ if she caught him not doing his school work.” Batts, Sasser, and J.S. tortured Alex, beating him, spraying him with water, strangling him, and depriving him of food.
The abuse came to light when Alex died following an altercation with J.S. where Alex sustained blunt force trauma to the back of his head. Batts, Sasser, and J.S. were charged with homicide; Batts and Sasser were also charged with child endangerment, among other charges.
Date: February 3, 2020
Location: West Yellowstone, Montana