Invisible Children

James Alex Hurley

Content note: Case narratives include descriptions of severe violence inflicted on children, including abuse and neglect, sexual violence, torture, and murder, as well as mentions of suicide and domestic violence. They also include photos of victims and perpetrators of violence.

Alex Hurley

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Alex was withdrawn from school in September 2019 and “Batts filed paperwork with the West Yellowstone School District to homeschool” him.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
West Yellowstone, Montana


Documents: Date:
State of Montana vs. Patricia Batts 02-11-2020
Investigators: videos of James Alex Hurley, 12, appearing being tortured by members of his extended family before his death 02-13-2020
Grandparents, uncle charged in beating death of 12-year-old 02-13-2020
Another West Yellowstone man charged in connection to 12-year-old’s death 02-14-2020
“Systematic torture,” Sheriff, friends weigh in on West Yellowstone boy’s death 02-14-2020
12-year-old Montana boy found dead in a living room, police say grandparents, uncle ‘tortured’ him 02-15-2020
Montana boy, 12, beaten by grandparents and 14-year-old uncle, prosecutors say 02-16-2020
Montana Boy, 12, Was Tortured and Beaten to Death By Grandparents And 14-Year-Old Uncle, Court Hears 02-16-2020
Mother of murdered boy says grandparents illegally pulled him out of school 02-21-2020
Prosecutors release grisly details in 12-year-old boy’s torture death 03-09-2020