BOZEMAN - A 14-year-old boy is charged as an adult in the death of 12-year-old in Gallatin County.
The Gallatin County Attorney's Office confirmed a deliberate homicide charge was filed in district court on Tuesday, in the death of 12-year-old James Alex Hurley.
Deputies arrested James Sasser Jr., Patricia Batts, and a juvenile male (the 14-year-old uncle of the victim) for homicide earlier this month.
Court documents indicate Sasser Jr. and Batts were Hurley's grandparents. Hurley had been living with them, two uncles, and an aunt in West Yellowstone for two years.
Detectives were called to the home on Buffalo Drive on February 3, and found Hurley was dead. Court documents say deputies believed the circumstances around his death were suspicious.
Investigators reportedly found cell phone videos and text messages that indicated Hurley's grandparents and 14-year-old uncle regularly abused Hurley by forcing him to stand and sit and strenuous positions for long periods of time. Additionally, Hurley's 14-year-old uncle told investigators, "he made a paddle out of wood with a blue-taped handle and would hit the victim multiple times with it, mostly on the buttocks but sometimes other places," according to court documents.
Detectives observed Hurley's body had injuries on his buttocks consistent with what could have happened as a result of being hit with a paddle.
Detectives who interviewed Batts, Hurley's grandmother, said she told them Hurley and the 14-year-old uncle had a "bad fight" on January 27. She called the fight a "blood bath," and told detectives the boy was hit in the head. The 14-year-old later admitted to kicking Hurley in the head.
She went on to tell investigators that on the night of February 2, Hurley slept on the floor of the living room, and was mumbling and moaning throughout the night. Batts reported finding Hurley's body the next morning in the living room.
Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said in his 27 years in law enforcement, he's never seen a case like this.
"It's personal," he says. "It's personal to all of us, I mean it's the worst type of case that you can deal with and I guess - you know, you just try and find some justice for Alex and that's exactly what our job is."
A vigil is set for Sunday in West Yellowstone to honor James Alex Hurley. It's set for 5:00 PM at West Yellowstone City Park. Attendees are asked to bring candles and wear blue ribbons.