Plea hearing continued for man accused of abusing Middletown boy, abusing body

New law requiring James Hamilton to register as a violent offender appears to be cause of delay.

A Middletown man accused of abusing a 6-year-old boy and disposing of his body in the Ohio River after his mother killed him was in Butler County Common Pleas Court today for an expected plea hearing, but it was continued.

James Hamilton stood before Judge Noah Powers II and began the hearing in which he was scheduled to plead guilty to kidnapping, two counts of child endangering and gross abuse of a corpse.

After conferencing with Hamilton’s attorney Jeremy Evans and prosecutors, Powers paused the hearing for a few minutes. The hearing began again and again there was a bench conference. After the second adjournment, Powers said the hearing would be continued until this afternoon.

The sticking point seemed to be a new law requiring Hamilton to register as a violent offender as part of the plea.

Evans said after the hearing, there is a provision in the statute that if it can be demonstrated Hamilton was not a “principal offender” it may override the violent offender designation and registration requirements.

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“I don’t think it has happened in this courthouse yet, how do we make that designation?” Evans said, adding he wants to make sure he is protecting his client’s rights.

The aborted plea hearing came a week after Brittany Gosney pleaded to murder and two counts of felony child endangering for killing James Hutchinson and abusing his siblings in February.

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

Gosney faces 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. Her sentencing is set for Sept. 13.

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Gosney admitted to charges related to the torture and hog-tying of Hutchinson’s two older siblings. The murder charge states Hutchinson died as a 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.

Middletown police say Gosney confessed to killing Hutchinson, a first-grader at Rosa Parks Elementary School, who died after he clung to her minivan as she sped off while attempting to abandon him and his two siblings at Rush Run Wild Life Area.

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. on 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.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said the plea is justice for Hutchinson, adding that in his opinion Gosney gave up the right to be referred to “as a parent or a mother.”

Gosney pleaded guilty as charged to the principle crime of murder, which means she accepts accountability. And she gave up her right to appeal. Gmoser said the fact that Hutchison’s body has not been found created some challenges in the case.

Detectives say both Gosney and Hamilton gave the same account of the body disposal when questioned separately.

Gmoser said the death penalty was never an option, and it’s a matter of the law.

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“Maybe she thought the wolves would get them (when Gosney tried to abandon the children), but her conduct in the death of this boy was reckless when she hit him with the car, which is a felony,” Gmoser said shortly after the indictment.

Her actions do not “constitute aggravated murder, and you cannot have a death penalty without aggravated murder,” he said.

Court documents say Gosney and Hamilton, between Feb. 25 and Feb. 26, made efforts to “hog-tie” the hands and legs of Hutchinson and his siblings, ages 7 and 9, behind their backs and place cloths in their mouths, leaving them in that position for hours.

Gosney said she was under pressure from Hamilton to get rid of Hutchinson and his two siblings, according to authorities.

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