Patricia Batts

Patricia Batts enters Gallatin County District Court recently.

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A West Yellowstone woman pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that accuse her of beating and torturing her 12-year-old grandson to death at their home.

Patricia Batts, 48, is charged with deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping, criminal child endangerment and strangulation of partner or family member, all felonies, in the death of Alex Hurley. She appeared with attorney Ryan Peabody and Mariah Eastman in Gallatin County District Court before Judge John Brown.

Batts has been held on $750,000 bail at the Gallatin County jail since February.

Batts’ husband, 47-year-old James Sasser Jr., and 14-year-old son, James Sasser III, are each charged with felony deliberate homicide. Sasser Jr. also faces a charge of felony criminal child endangerment.

Batts’ daughter Madison Sasser, 18, is charged with negligent homicide.

Gage Roush, 18, pleaded not guilty to felony assault on a minor in Gallatin County District Court on Tuesday. Prosecutors say Roush was seen in videos the family took hitting Alex with a wooden paddle in the months leading up to Alex’s death.

Sasser Jr. and Roush have been held at the Gallatin County jail since February.

In February, Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputies investigating Alex’s death found several videos on family members’ phones that showed the family torturing Alex, according to charging documents.

Batts told detectives they recorded Alex because he needed mental help.

Batts allowed Sasser III to punish Alex when she wasn’t around, but said she was unaware of the kind of punishment he was doing, court documents say. She said she learned that Sasser III “popped” Alex hard with the paddle, but claimed she told Sasser III that wasn’t OK.

Batts claimed that she had no idea how Alex died and told detectives that she did not feel responsible for his death, court documents say.

Batts pulled Alex out of school in September for homeschooling. She said she did so because he got in trouble for groping a girl, court documents say. Batts said Alex drove her “nuts” and she’d make him do “wall sits” or jumping jacks if she caught him not doing schoolwork.

In one instance, Batts forced Alex to stand in front of fans half naked and squirted water at him. She told detectives, “That’s what they do with cats, right?” court documents say.

Police said in charging documents that Alex’s aunt messaged her boyfriend that Alex was like “a piece of (expletive) off of my (expletive) shoe” and that she wished Alex would “die in the woods.”

The detective asked Batts if her son and daughter learned it was OK to discipline Alex from her.

Batts replied, “I guess.”

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Freddy Monares can be reached at or at 406-582-2630.

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