Questions remain after Middletown mother admits to killing 6-year-old James Hutchinson

Credit: Journal News

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Gosney plea

Credit: Journal News

Brittany Gosney’s guilty plea to the murder of son and the abuse of the 6-year-old and his two sibling brings some closure to a gut-wrenching case that has garnered national attention.

But for some, questions remain. What should her punishment be? And where is James Hutchinson’s body?

For answers, officials point to the law and investigative techniques.

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. She pleaded guilty to murder and two counts of felony child endangering Monday. Thirteen other charges against her were dismissed.

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She 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. Butler County Common Pleas Judge Noah Powers set Sept. 13 for sentencing.

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Hamilton, who faces charges of kidnapping, gross abuse of a corpse, kidnapping and endangering children, is still scheduled for trial Oct. 4. He will be back in Butler County Common Pleas Court on Monday for a hearing, where a plea is possible.

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.

Brittany Gosney pleaded guilty to murder Monday in Butler County Common Pleas Court. She killed her son, James Hutchison, 6, at  Preble County wild life park. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Brittany Gosney pleaded guilty to murder Monday in Butler County Common Pleas Court. She killed her son, James Hutchison, 6, at Preble County wild life park. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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 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.

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.

“A guilty plea eliminates all doubts of accident or any other defense that might be available,” Gmoser said. “All doubt has been removed, all question has been removed. We do not have a body. We have a very ample confession, but there has to be more than a confession. We don’t have a body. There are questions about amount of DNA to support the crime without a body.”

Gmoser and Gosney’s defense attorney, David Washington, agree she is telling the truth about the disposal of the boy’s body.

“There’s no reason to believe she is not telling me the truth,” Washington said. “I think we are all in agreement that that is where the body is.”

Washington said Gosney has had no contact “in a very long time” with a parent and step parent who were interviewed by a local media outlet and said they doubted the body was in the river.

“For them to enrage the public in that theory, it is unfortunate and it is inappropriate,” he said. “They have no information that anything other than what she said happened. She was probably too open and honest about what went on to be honest. For people to now come up with these theories, it is baseless.”

Gmoser said, “I absolutely believe this child is in the river for the reasons that will become clear later, and I will be happy to discuss that at a later time.”

Weather and water conditions have made visibility difficult, especially for divers.

“We are still looking, they’re still going to continue to do that and I hope they do. But the conditions are extreme,” Gmoser said.

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.

“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.

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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.

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

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

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James Robert Hutchinson
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James Robert Hutchinson