A 12-year-old boy from Montana has died, and his grandparents and teenage uncle face charges. They were caught torturing the boy on camera.
The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office arrested Patricia Batts, James Sasser Jr, and a juvenile male on Wednesday after the death of James Alex Hurley, according to a news release that was obtained by PEOPLE.
After James was found dead on February 3 because of blunt force trauma to the back of his head, his grandparents and uncle were all charged with deliberate homicide.
He had been living with his 14-year-old uncle and grandparents for two years. Police say he endured severe abuse during that time. Police obtained video footage that shows the family torturing James before he died.
Deputy County Attorney Bjorn Boyer told KTVH-TV that “systemic torture and beatings” is what led to James’ death.
Authorities arrived at the home on February 3 and noticed that the slain boy “appeared to be emaciated.”
Footage from just two years prior showed him to be a “healthy and well-fed boy,” according to court documents.
Officials are accusing the family of withholding food from James. They also forced him to do squats and jumping jacks while they recorded him on video.
The family told investigators that James and his uncle fought often. They said on February 2, during the Super Bowl, that James’ uncle hit him with a paddle while fighting.
Batts stated that she was asleep that night and awoke during the fight, and Sasser claims that he was also asleep, but found out that James had died the following morning when Batts called him on his way to work.
After the trio was arrested, authorities soon arrested another teen, 18-year-old Gage Roush, on allegations that he also assaulted James.
At the time of writing it isn’t clear if anyone involved has entered pleas to the charges against them, and no attorney information was available for the defendants.
There is a toxicology report currently pending for James’ autopsy.
If you ever suspect child abuse is taking place, please call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453. You can also visit Childhelp.org.
The hotline is toll-free and available 24/7 in more than 170 different languages.