A West Yellowstone man pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges in connection to the torturing of a 12-year-old boy who was found dead at his home in February.
Gage Roush, 18, is charged with felony assault on a minor for hitting Alex Hurley with a wooden paddle in the months leading up to Alex’s death. He appeared with attorney Kristen Mull Core in Gallatin County District Court before Judge Holly Brown.
In court documents, Roush said he “regretted everything” and that he wished he could tell Alex “sorry.”
He has been held on $50,000 bail at the Gallatin County jail since his arrest.
Hurley’s grandmother Patricia Batts is charged with deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping, criminal child endangerment and strangulation of partner or family member, all felonies, in Alex’s death.
Grandfather James Sasser Jr. is charged with deliberate homicide and criminal child endangerment, both felonies.
James Sasser III, Alex’s 14-year-old uncle, is charged with felony deliberate homicide. He appeared last week in district court and pleaded not guilty to the homicide charge.
Batts and Sasser Jr. have been held at the Gallatin County jail since February. Sasser III is being held at the Yellowstone Youth Services Center in Billings.
Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputies investigating Alex’s death found several videos on family members’ phones that showed the family torturing Alex in the months leading up to his death, according to charging documents.
One video recorded in January showed Roush hitting Alex with a wooden paddle while Alex can be seen crying and heard screaming “I (expletive) hate this,” court documents say. Roush can then be seen approaching Alex and saying loudly, “Yeah you do, I know you do.”
Alex’s 14-year-old uncle told detectives Roush was the man in the video hitting Alex, according to charging documents.
Roush was arrested after detectives saw him at Sasser Jr.’s and Batts’ hearing in Gallatin County Justice Court in February.
Roush admitted to detectives that he was the person seen in the video hitting Alex, court documents say. Roush told detectives he also forced Alex to remain sitting against a wall while he hit him.
Roush initially told detectives he had never seen Batts or Sasser Jr. discipline their children, but later admitted he had seen Alex being forced to do “wall sits” and jumping jacks, court documents say. Roush said he showed Alex how to do the “wall sits” and that Roush’s parents physically abused him as a child.
Asked if he thought the wall sits constituted child abuse, Roush told detectives, “yes sir.”
If convicted, Roush could face up to 40 years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine.