MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — In early spring 2021, local police and Tri-state search teams were making attempts to find the body of 6-year-old James Hutchinson in the swift, deep waters of the Ohio River in Indiana.
Fighting high water levels and rapid currents, multiple searches involved the latest equipment to locate the Middletown boy killed by his mother, Brittany Gosney, then thrown from the Lawrenceburg, Ind. bridge by Gosney and her boyfriend, James Hamilton.
Searchers were unsuccessful.
But the effort could continue with tips, new information and safe water conditions, according Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson.
His department has coordinated the search to assist Middletown police, and because Hutchinson was run over and killed by his mother at Rush Run Wild Area in Preble County.
Gosney and Hamilton walked into the Middletown police station on Feb. 28, 2021, saying Gosney’s youngest child was missing. Detectives did not believe them and began questioning right away. During hours of interrogation, the duo changed aspects of their stories, but didn’t stray from where the body was thrown, weighted down by a concrete block.
In a press conference after Gosney pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including murder, Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said, “I absolutely believe (Hutchinson) is in the river.”
Gosney was convicted of killing Hutchinson and the abuse of his siblings, and Hamilton was convicted for abusing all three children and disposing James in the Ohio River.
But some question if the couple told the truth about where Hutchinson’s body is. And it weighs on detectives that he has not been found.
Middletown detectives say Gosney and Hamilton differed in their account of the crimes, with exception of what happened to the Hutchinson’s body. Gosney was taken by detectives to the bridge and showed them where she recalled the body was thrown over. She also took a lie detector test and passed.
Attorneys representing Gosney and Hamilton believe they were truthful about the body’s disposal location, pointing out they had no reason to lie or the intelligence to keep up a lie. Their first lie fell apart within minutes of walking into the police station.
“I believe Brittany was completely forthcoming with the police with regard to where they dumped the body. She had nothing to gain by continuing to lie,” said her attorney David Washington. “The conditions of that water are such that to be quite frank, there are probably a lot of bodies in that river. It is tragedy all around, but do I think that she told the police the truth ultimately, yes I believe that she did.”
Washington added, “They (Gosney and Hamilton) are just not smart enough to come up with a plan to lie about it. You see what happened with the plan they tried to come up with. So I think that ultimately they both told the truth.”
Hamilton’s attorney Jeremy Evans agreed, saying eventually his client was “so forthright” about elements that happened in preparation to dispose of the body.
“I think that they are smart enough to know that finding the boy was an issue in mitigation at sentencing and if they had information about where the body was that was different than they originally said and they were able to recover the body because of additional information they were able to give, then they have been motivated to provide that.”
While driving the body to the Ohio River may not have been as convenient as putting it in the Great Miami River in Middletown or even water at Rush Run, it served its purpose of concealing. Evans said the Ohio River is “deep and swift and cold.”
“You also have to remember the park (she) took the kids to wasn’t’ convenient either, they weren’t afraid to drive,” Evans said.
Sheriff Simpson said last week the waters are much the same now as they were a year ago, and searching is risky.
“But if an opportunity presents itself for us to get back on the river with appropriate resources and a tip or information like somebody seeing something comes in, we will be there with the professionals, searching,” he said.
A picture of Hamilton hangs in the hallway outside the detective section at the Preble County Sheriff’s Office and all who walk by are reminded that the search is not over, the sheriff said.
“But I don’t know of any stone that has not been turned on this case based on the information we have,” Simpson said.