A 14-year-old teenager from Montana has argued not to be guilty of killing his 12-year-old cousin after videos of him and his grandparents had physically abused and starved the child.
The young suspect, identified as James Sasser III by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, appeared on video in the Gallatin County district court on Thursday.
Sasser III has denied committing an intentional murder crime in the February 3 death of James ‘Alex’ Hurley.
Hurley reportedly died of head trauma after Sasser III, six feet tall and weighing 300 pounds, got into a “bad fight” with the boy when he found him with a knife above their grandmother, the suspect claims.
Sasser III admitted that he had kicked Hurley’s head several times in the 24 to 36 hours before his death.
James “Alex” Hurley (photo) died of head trauma on February 3 after allegedly in a “bad fight” with his 14-year-old uncle, James Sasser III
Grandparents Patricia Batts (left) and James Sasser Jr. (right) were also arrested at Hurley’s death in West Yellowstone, Montana
The boys’ grandparents, the 47-year-old James Sasser Jr. and 48-year-old Patricia Batts, are also accused of deliberate murder in the death of Hurley.
Batts was specifically accused of criminal child threat, aggravated kidnapping and strangulation of a partner or family member. She could get the death penalty if she is convicted.
They both appeared in court last month, where the bail was set at $ 500,000 for Sasser Jr. and $ 750,000 for Batts.
Family acquaintance Gage Roush, 18, was also arrested last month and charged with felony assaulting a minor in connection with Hurley’s death.
Gage Roush, 18, (photo) was also charged with a crime attack on a minor in connection with Hurley’s death
According to the court, Hurley lived with the grandparents, two uncles and an aunt in West Yellowstone for about two years before he was killed, The mail reports.
The abuse allegedly began when his father died about two years ago after an ATV accident that paralyzed him.
But video evidence discovered by researchers shows that the grandparents also regularly abused Hurley, alongside Sasser III and Roush.
Allegedly images showed the grandparents and Sasser III “hit him with a wooden paddle, strangle him and lock up food.”
In some of the recordings, Batts is seen strangling and beating the boy, prosecutors said.
Video obtained by researchers allegedly shows touching family members [Hurley] with a wooden paddle, strangle him and lock up food ‘
The family reportedly admitted that he physically abused the boy, but claims that the boy was problematic and violent. The videos were reportedly evidence of when they took him to “get help” from mental health officials.
The accused told investigators that Hurley had tried to injure himself and others on various occasions and that he had complained about voices telling him to kill people.
They said the uncle had made a paddle out of wood and he and Batts would use it to punish the young boy, according to court documents.
Batts told the researchers that she would force Hurley to jump or sit against the wall if he didn’t finish his homework.
She also had him partially watch out for the fans as she sprayed water on him, the court reports said.
“That’s what they do with cats, right?” Batts would have said.
Batts (left), who appeared in the Gallatin County District Court, said she did not know how Hurley died and did not feel responsible
Batts also admitted that she allowed Sasser III to punish Hurley when she was not at home. She told the authorities that she did not know how her grandson died and did not feel responsible for his death.
In addition, a neighbor said that Batts, Sasser III and an unnamed 18-year-old aunt defeated Hurley after trying to run away in December, documents said.
The victim and his uncle are said to have often fought, but a fight on January 27 was “worse.”
Investigators said Batts described the fight after Sasser III allegedly saw Hurley with a knife as a “bloodbath.”
Batts said Hurley slept on the floor in the living room on February 2 and murmured and moaned all night before she reported having found him dead the next morning.
No one sought medical help for the victim. The autopsy showed that the Hurley had bruises all over its body and died of head trauma.
Sasser Jr. told the investigators that he considered Batts’ punishments for Hurley serious and he intended to divorce his wife to raise only the children of the family.
Batts, Sasser Jr. and Roush have not yet entered.