A Middletown man who abused a 6-year-old boy and disposed of his body in the Ohio River after his mother killed him has been given the maximum prison sentence his plea allows.
James Hamilton, 43, pleaded guilty to kidnapping, two counts of child endangering and gross abuse of a corpse in connection with the abuse and death of James Hutchinson and abuse of his two siblings in February.
On Tuesday, Butler County Common Pleas Judge Noah Powers II sentenced Hamilton to the maximum of 19 years. He will be eligible for parole after 15 years but could serve the maximum depending on his behavior in prison. He will receive credit for 219 days served in the Butler County Jail.
Hamilton was also ordered to pay court costs and will be required to register as a child victim offender and a violent offender when he is released from prison.
Brittany Gosney, 29, Hamilton’s girlfriend and Hutchinson’s mother, pleaded guilty to murder and two counts of felony child endangering for killing Hutchinson and abusing his siblings. She was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 21 years on Sept. 13.
The Tuesday sentencing closes a case that has shocked and saddened the Middletown community and attracted national media attention. At the sentencing, Middletown Officer Jon Hoover and Detective Tom McIntosh, who got confessions from both defendants, were in the courtroom. So were officials from Middletown Schools, where Hutchinson was a well-liked first-grader at Rosa Parks Elementary.
The case moved quickly through the court system, even during a time of COVID-19 delays, because of the confessions and evidence, including home surveillance camera videos, collected during the investigation.
Hamilton admitted to hog-tying Hutchinson, putting a cloth in his mouth and leaving him. He also admitted to doing the same to Hutchinson’s siblings and throwing the 6-year-old’s body in the Ohio River on Feb. 28.
“I would ask the court to take into consideration the fact that he gave as much information as he could (to police),” said Jeremy Evans, Hamilton’s attorney.
Evans noted that despite the original story about James going missing, it didn’t take long for Hamilton to tell police the truth about what happened.
Hamilton’s wife, Priscilla, and step-daughter were in the courtroom on Tuesday.
“I am very sorry,” he said. “It hurts when I think what they all have had to go through. That night I thought she (Gosney) was talking the kids someplace safe. When I found out what was going on, I told her to bring them back home.”
Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Heile said Hamilton was minimizing his role in the crimes, noting he gave Gosney directions to Rush Run Wildlife Area in Preble County, where James died, and that the couple had taken the children there before.
Hutchinson’s father, Lewis Hutchinson, was in the courtroom and cried during the hearing. A family member, Kathryn Lundy, spoke on his behalf.
“This unspeakable crime cannot be forgiven,” Lundy said, directing her comments to Hamilton. “You abused three children so horribly for so long with never a regard to their lives. You helped cover up the murder of an innocent, bright-eyed, beautiful 6-year-old boy who will never have a life (as an adult).”
Gosney admitted to taking her three children to Rush Run during the early-morning hours of Feb. 26, then moving the trio out of the van. When James clung to the van, he was dragged and killed.
Gosney initially told detectives Hamilton was with her when they drove to Preble County and the boy was killed. She later said she was alone the the kids.
Hamilton, who was also initially charged with tampering with evidence, told detectives that he was not present when the boy died. He told them where to find a hard drive for a security system that he hid in a garage on Logan Street that he said proved Gosney returned carrying James, who was dead.
The evidence shows Gosney walking out of the side door and getting into the Dodge Caravan parked in front of the Crawford Street residence at 3:16 a.m. on Feb. 26. The three children are in tow. The children get in the back seat, and the van pulls away at about 3:19 a.m.
At about 4:53 a.m. the van pulls up in front of the residence. Gosney gets out of the van, hoists James, who is limp, against her chest and carries him through the yard and into the side door of the house. James appears to be wearing one shoe. The two siblings follow their mother. One appears to be carrying James’ other shoe.
On Feb. 28 at 2:28 a.m., Gosney walks out of the home’s side door and pulls up her hood because it is snowing or raining. She walks to the side of the van and opens the back sliding door. Seconds later, Hamilton carries James’ body out, puts him in the van and quickly slams the door, and they drive off.
Hutchinson’s body has not been found but dive teams continue efforts when the water is safe to do so.