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State won’t seek death penalty for woman in grandson’s death

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BOZEMAN—The newly elected prosecutor in Gallatin County has decided against pursuing the death penalty in the case of a woman charged with torturing and killing her 12-year-old grandson three years ago.

County Attorney Audrey Cromwell, who was elected in November, on Friday withdrew the county’s notice of intent to seek the penalty against Patricia Batts for the death of James “Alex” Hurley, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

“Looking at this case holistically, the best way that we can get justice for Alex is by withdrawing the penalty,” Cromwell said. “It will make this move more swiftly and secure a sentence where Ms. Batts will never see the outside of a prison cell again.”

Batts is charged with deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping, criminal child endangerment and strangulation of a family member in the February 2020 death. She has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and has been jailed since her arrest in March 2020.

Alex died of blunt force trauma to the back of his head, an autopsy found, but also had bruises and other wounds and had been denied food.

Investigators found videos on family cellphones showing the boy being abused, prosecutors said.

Batts, her husband James Sasser Jr., their 18-year-old daughter and their 14-year-old son were all charged in the case. Sasser Jr. is serving a 100-year prison sentence.

The daughter was sentenced to juvenile probation and the son was sentenced to the Department of Corrections until he turns 18. He will be on probation until age 25.

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