Grandparents, uncle accused of paddling and starving boy, 12, causing child's death

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BySteve Campion KTRK logo
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Boy tortured to death in Montana to be buried in Texas
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The boy's grandparents and uncle allegedly paddled him and deprived him of food.

CLEVELAND, Texas -- The grandparents and uncle of a 12-year-old boy are accused of torturing the child to death, paddling and starving him and recording the whole ordeal.

James Alex Hurley, who was tortured to death in Montana, will be laid to rest in southeast Texas.

Hurley's family said he's from the Cleveland, Texas, area, where they plan to hold his funeral this weekend.

Authorities in Montana charged Hurley's grandparents, James Sassar Jr. and Patricia Batts, and his 14-year-old uncle with deliberate homicide. Officials are accusing the trio of torturing the boy and recording it.

According to reports, the three regularly abused Hurley by beating him with a wooden paddle and locking up food to deprive him.

Hurley's aunt, Misty Burks, told ABC13 that her family in Texas, including Hurley's mother, tried to get him home.

Burks said Hurley went to visit his father before he passed away in 2018, but Sassar and Batts kept him in their custody. Burks said they never suspected the boy was in danger.

"He was a kid that was happy," said Burks. "It's gut-wrenching. It makes me want to throw up. It makes me want to crawl up in a little ball and die. Not only because it's my blood, but because that is a child. It makes me sick to my stomach."