Montana prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for a woman accused of torturing, beating and killing her grandson, the Casper Star Tribune reports.
Patricia Batts is facing charges of deliberate homicide, criminal endangerment, aggravated kidnapping and strangulation of a family member in connection with the death of 12-year-old James Hurley, whose body was found in the family’s West Yellowstone home February 3.
On Friday, Deputy Gallatin County Attorney Bjorn Boyer reportedly filed court papers indicating that he plans to seek the death penalty if Batts is convicted of the charges.
Batts’ husband and 14-year-old son are also charged with deliberate homicide and have pleaded not guilty.
Authorities have video evidence showing Batts’ husband and son abusing Hurley; Gage Roush, an 18-year-old family friend, can be seen in the video abusing Hurley but has denied any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors have also charged Batts’ 18-year-old daughter, Madison Sasser, with negligent homicide.
Batts admitted to police that she beat Hurley and that was how her own children learned to do the same. All of the family members lived in the same home.
Batts reportedly forced Hurley to sit naked in front of fans while she sprayed water on him. The boy was also forced to perform jumping jacks and so-called “wall sits.”
The grandmother told investigators she allowed her kids to punish Hurley when she wasn’t around, but that she did not know what kind of punishments were being inflicted. She claims to have told her son that striking Hurley with a paddle was not OK – after it happened.
Batts’ husband reportedly said in an interview with police that he believed the punishments were too much and that he was trying to divorce his wife and move out of the home. He claimed that he wanted to raise the children without her.
One day in December, a neighbor said she heard screaming coming from Batts’ home and saw Hurley running away “as fast as he could.”
Several family members followed after him, at which point Batts’ son repeatedly punched the boy in the face and dragged him back to the residence.
Batts is being held in the Gallatin County Detention Center on $750,000 bail.
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