This story is so heartbreaking. To think this young boy lived and died in an environment filled with so much hate and abuse is truly heartwrenching.
But his story should be told because James Alex Hurley died in the shadows where his abusers – family members – were free to torture and kill him.
Court records show that the little boy had lived with his grandparents, two uncles, and an aunt for about two years.
The group all lived in West Yellowstone – near the border of Wyoming and Idaho.
Videos found by police show a pattern of abuse that included forced exercises and physical abuse, according to court documents.
Detectives found a video from about two years ago where James “appeared to be a healthy and well-fed boy,” court documents stated.
By the time he was murdered, detectives said James “appeared to be emaciated.”
“I believe the systematic torture and beatings are perpetrated on the victim in this case that led to his death,” Bjorn Boyer, Deputy County Attorney with the Gallatin County Attorney’s Officer said.
On Feb. 3, deputies responded to the family’s West Yellowstone home after the family reported the boy’s death. Upon arrival, deputies found James to have multiple wounds and contusions all over his body, prompting them to contact homicide detectives.
At the time of James’s death, he “appeared to be emaciated” while video footage from two years prior showed him as a “healthy and well fed boy,” the court documents state.
James weighed 103 lbs and stood 5 feet 3 inches tall, investigators noted in the documents.
The family is accused of withholding food from the boy and forcing him to do exercises like jumping jacks and squats. All of this was allegedly recorded by the family on video.
In interviews with police, James’ family told investigators the boy and his uncle often fought.
Batts allegedly told investigators on Feb. 2, during the Super Bowl, she was asleep but awoke to find James allegedly being hit by his uncle with a paddle during an altercation. [People Magazine]
The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office arrested James Sasser Jr., Patricia Batts and the 14-year-old uncle for the murder of James Alex Hurley.
All three have been charged with deliberate homicide.
James was found dead on Feb. 3 of blunt force trauma to the back of his head.
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