‘No sentence will bring James back’: Middletown mother’s murder sentencing led to packed courtroom, powerful statements

Credit: Journal News

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Gosney plea

Credit: Journal News

A Middletown woman who admitted to killing her 6-year-old son whose body was disposed of in the Ohio River has been given a life prison sentence.

Brittany Gosney, 29, and her boyfriend, James Hamilton, 43, were indicted in March on a combined 31-count indictment for the slaying of James Hutchinson on Feb. 26 in rural Preble County and the disposal of his body days later in the river near Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

Gosney pleaded guilty last month to murder and two counts of felony child endangering. Thirteen other charges against her were dismissed.

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Gosney faced a mandatory maximum of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years and a maximum of 36 months each for the child endangering charges for a total of 21 to life.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Noah Powers II gave Gosney that maximum sentence of life in prison with parole eligibility after 21 years. She will also be required to enroll as a violent offender.

Gosney was asked twice by Powers before sentencing if she had anything to say. Both times she answered, “No.”

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser underlined what he said was Gosney’s lack of remorse.

“Did any of you hear the words, ‘I am sorry’?” Gmoser said after the hearing. “Did any of you hear, ‘I apologize for this’ to the people of Butler County and to the nation who have followed this case?”

There were no family members, including the boy’s father, in attendance. Middletown police detectives who investigated the case and Middletown school officials, including Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. and Rosa Parks Elementary Principal Tracy Neeley, were in the front row.

Neeley read a statement recalling the little boy with red hair and bright eyes who touched everyone while he was a first-grader for a short time.

“He loved learning. He loved to help others,” she said.

Neeley said that “the impact of James’ murder on those who loved him at Rosa Parks Elementary goes far beyond anything I can try to explain, although I wish I could make it fully understandable for the purposes of sentencing. No sentence will bring James back. All we can do is hope that his death is not in vain. Our hope is that his legacy shines a light on child abuse.”

Gosney’s attorney, David Washington, said he would not defend his client’s actions but added, “Gosney is an example of when people reach out to try to find help. She on multiple occasions with multiple people told them that she was overwhelmed. She told them she couldn’t handle the situation. I think that factor combined with the mental health issues she has made her to things that are unexplainable.”

“It is a tragedy for so many reasons,” Washington said.

Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Heile told the judge that, by Gosney’s own admission, she never reached out to agencies for help because she was afraid.

She said there is no indication from any agency who could have helped Gosney and her children that she contacted them for help.

The case received national media attention and touched the community where the boy was a first grader at Rosa Parks Elementary School. On Thursday, a dedication introduced a memorial bench at Rosa Parks paid for by community donations and services from Dodds Memorials in Middletown.

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Brittany Gosney received a maximum sentence of life in prison with parole eligibility after 21 years on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, for killing her 6-year-old son, James Hutchinson, and disposing of his body in the Ohio River. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
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Brittany Gosney received a maximum sentence of life in prison with parole eligibility after 21 years on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, for killing her 6-year-old son, James Hutchinson, and disposing of his body in the Ohio River. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

The case took its toll on the officers involved, including one who left the detectives section to return to patrol, Middletown Police Chief told the Journal-News.

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Gosney was facing felony charges related to all three of her children, including murder, involuntary manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse and endangering children. Hamilton faced charges of kidnapping, gross abuse of a corpse, kidnapping and endangering children.

Hamilton also pleaded guilty to kidnapping, two counts of child endangering and gross abuse of a corpse in connection with the abuse and death Hutchinson and abuse of his siblings. He faces a maximum of 19 years in prison. Powers set his sentencing for Oct. 4.

Gosney admitted to charges related to the torture and hog-tying of Hutchinson’s two older siblings. The murder charge states Hutchinson died as result of child endangering when Gosney tried to abandon her three children and recklessly caused the death of the boy before bringing his body back to the Crawford Street residence she shared with Hamilton.

She confessed to police that she killed Hutchinson, who died Feb. 26 after he clung to her minivan as she allegedly sped off while attempting to abandon him and his two siblings at Rush Run Wild Life Area.

Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Heile and Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser answer questions about the guilty plea of Brittany Gosney. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Heile and Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser answer questions about the guilty plea of Brittany Gosney. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Gosney and Hamilton put Hutchinson’s body in a spare room under a window at their Crawford Street home, they told police. At about 3 a.m. Feb. 28, they drove down Interstate 275 in the minivan to the Lawrenceburg area and threw the boy’s body into the Ohio River, according to police.

Hutchinson’s body was left in the house for almost 48 hours, and a concrete block was tied to his body before it was tossed in the river, according to court documents. Hutchinson’s body has not been found despite several searches in the water and along the banks of the river.

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According to Middletown police, Gosney and Hamilton came to the police station to report James missing on Feb. 28, but the story didn’t add up and the situation changed quickly to a death investigation.

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Bond was set at $750,000 for James Hamilton Monday, March 8, 2021 in Butler County Common Pleas Court in Hamilton. Hamilton is charged with multiple counts in connection to the disposal of the body of his girlfriend's 6-year-old son James Hutchinson.  NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
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Bond was set at $750,000 for James Hamilton Monday, March 8, 2021 in Butler County Common Pleas Court in Hamilton. Hamilton is charged with multiple counts in connection to the disposal of the body of his girlfriend's 6-year-old son James Hutchinson. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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James Robert Hutchinson
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James Robert Hutchinson