HAMILTON, Ohio — A Middletown woman who admitted to killing her 6-year-old son received the maximum sentence of life in prison Monday morning, with the possibility of parole after 21 years, ending one of the most high-profile crimes and cases in recent Butler County memory.
Brittany Gosney, 29, and her boyfriend, 43-year-old James Hamilton, 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 Ohio River near Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
Last month, Gosney pleaded guilty to murder and two counts of felony child endangering. Thirteen other charges against her were dismissed.
Gosney faced a mandatory maximum of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years for the murder charge and a maximum of 36 months each for the child endangering charges.
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.
James’ smiling face is pictured on the back of the bench with the words, “The greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they are loved and capable of loving.” It sits outside the school’s recently completed new addition in the outdoor learning space.
A peaceful silhouette of a boy at play is on the other side of the bench with the sentiment, “In memory of James Hutchinson. A little boy who loved his school, his teachers & his friends.”
Prosecutors say school representatives were expected to attend the sentencing on Monday.
Middletown Police Chief David Birk said he and officers who worked on the case also planned to attend. The case took its toll on the officers involved, including one who left the detective section to return to patrol.
“Going through what happened here, it was the straw the broke the camel’s back. And he was in detectives for awhile assigned to juvenile cases, but he said, ‘I am going back to the street.’ So it really takes a toll on the officers,” Birk said.
Gosney was originally 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 last month to kidnapping, two counts of child endangering and gross abuse of a corpse in connection with the abuse and death of Hutchinson and abuse of his siblings. He faces a maximum of 19 years in prison at his sentencing set 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.
Gosney 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.
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 after the hearing 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.”
“Her conduct in this case fit the bill of outrageousness,” Gmoser said.
Gosney pleaded guilty as charged to the principle crime of murder, which eliminates a question of accident or other defense in the case. And she gave up her right to appeal. Gmoser said the fact that Hutchinson’s body has not been found created some challenges in the case.
The surviving siblings, who are witnesses, could have been called to testify at trial. The were 7 and 9 at the time of the crimes.
“We have two living children who have already been through the trauma that no child should ever experience, and this guilty plea prevents them from going through further trauma at least as it relates to a case against their mother,” said Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Heile. “I can say from what I know of the evidence, little James loved his siblings and he would want to protect them.”
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.
Gosney said she was under pressure from Hamilton to get rid of Hutchinson and his two siblings, according to authorities.