sasser trial

James Sasser Jr., center, sheds a tear while listening to audio evidence during a motions hearing at the Gallatin County Law and Justice Center on Tuesday.

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A Gallatin County District Court judge will decide if the court will allow contact between a father, who is charged with deliberate homicide and other crimes in the death of 12-year-old Alex Hurley, and his son, who pleaded guilty to a homicide charge connected to the death of the West Yellowstone child.

James Sasser Jr. is charged with deliberate homicide, criminal child endangerment and tampering with a witness, all felonies. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in March 2020. Sasser III, who was 14 at the time of Hurley’s murder and tried as a juvenile, pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide.

Sasser Jr.’s attorneys have filed multiple motions in the case. Attorneys spent the majority of a full-day motions hearing on Tuesday arguing a motion that Sasser Jr. be allowed to have contact with Sasser III.

Judge John Brown ordered that Sasser Jr. have no contact with Sasser III, but supervised contact between the two has been allowed as part of a different civil case regarding Sasser Jr.’s ability to parent.

Prosecutors argued that contact between the two could impair Sasser III’s ability to overcome the trauma and move forward. Sasser Jr.’s attorneys argued that contact between the two could help both of them.

The same circumstance is also playing out with Patricia Batts, Sasser Jr.’s partner, who is charged with deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping, criminal child endangerment and strangulation of a family member, all felonies, in the early 2020 death of their grandson Alex Hurley.

The trial for Batts is scheduled to take place next June.

Sasser Jr. is in custody at the Gallatin County Detention Center. Sasser III is in the Montana Department of Corrections’ custody at a youth detention center in Montana.

Attorneys also filed motions to sever the tampering charge from the other two and throw out evidence from the seizure of cell phones, arguing cell phone data is not appropriate to use because of the way the search warrant was written.

All proposed motions are due in writing to Judge John Brown by the end of the business day on July 26. Brown will issue a decision on the motions after receiving all written proposed orders. Sasser Jr.’s two-week jury trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 20.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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