Mont. Grandfather Tortured and Killed 12-Year-Old Boy Who Was Staying with Him After His Dad Died

James Alex Hurley Credit: Gallatin County Sheriff's Office

A Montana grandfather has pleaded guilty to homicide for his part in torturing his grandson to death in February 2020.

PEOPLE confirms that James Sasser Jr. pleaded guilty to felony deliberate homicide, criminal child endangerment, and tampering with a witness on Monday morning. Sasser admitted to taking part in the death of his grandson, 12-year-old James “Alex” Hurley.

Alex was found dead on Feb. 3, 2020, and authorities believed that he had suffered extensive torture and abuse at the hands of several family members, including his grandfather. Responding officers found numerous wounds and contusions on the boy’s body.

According to court documents, investigators discovered that multiple family members had videos of themselves verbally berating Alex, spraying him with water, choking him and beating him with a paddle and other objects. The family members allegedly said that the boy was causing his own injuries, but forensics showed that the wounds were not self-inflicted.

Authorities arrested five people who they say were involved in Alex’s death: James Sasser Jr.; his wife, Patricia Batts; their 14-year-old son, James Sasser III; their 18-year-old daughter, Madison; and 18-year-old Gage Roush, who is unrelated to the family.

James Sasser III pleaded guilty to felony deliberate homicide and was sentenced to juvenile detention until he is 18. Madison Sasser pleaded guilty to felony aggravated kidnapping and will be on probation until she is 25. As part of her plea agreement, Madison is testifying against her family members.

Gage Roush pleaded guilty to assault on a minor in November 2020. He has been given a 5-year deferred sentence.

Patricia Batts is still awaiting trial. PEOPLE confirms that she is charged with deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping, criminal child endangerment and strangulation of a partner or family member. Prosecutors tell the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that they are seeking the death penalty in her case. She has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bond.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors and defense agreed that James Sasser Jr. will be sentenced to 100 years in the Montana state prison for the deliberate homicide charge with none suspended, 10 years in prison for the criminal child endangerment charge with none suspended, and 10 years in prison for witness tampering with none suspended. The sentences will run concurrently.