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Attorney General’s Office secures guilty plea in West Yellowstone homicide case

HELENA – A West Yellowstone woman pleaded guilty today in Gallatin County District Court to deliberate homicide, felony child criminal endangerment, and felony tampering with witnesses and information following the death of her grandson, Attorney General Austin Knudsen announced. The plea agreement reached in this case asks the judge to impose a life sentence.

Patricia Batts admitted to deliberate homicide of her 12-year-old grandson James Alex Hurley in 2020, with the assistance of James Sasser III, at her home in West Yellowstone. She also admitted to failing to provide medical attention to Alex after he was severely assaulted and to tampering with the testimony of witnesses by trying to get family members to provide false statements to law enforcement. 

“This was a very tragic death of a blameless child. These cases are not easy, and our hard-working prosecutors are one step closer to achieving justice for Alex’s family,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “I look forward to the sentencing and expect the judge will impose the life sentence we requested in the plea deal. My office will continue to hold criminals accountable in this state.”

Last year, Sasser was sentenced to 100 years for deliberate homicide, felony child endangerment, and felony tampering with a witness for his role in Hurley’s death. Batts’ son has also been sentenced and other family members have been charged in connection with Hurley’s death. 

Assistant Attorney General Stephanie Robles and Prosecution Services Bureau Chief Dan Guzynski prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant Attorney General Bjorn Boyer also performed substantial work on the case.

The sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 11, 2023.