MANCHESTER, NH – Kayla Montgomery broke down on the stand Monday after a prosecutor held up a poster-size photo of her murdered stepdaughter and telling the jurors her home was in prison, she was not allowed to keep her children, does not have any right to them and cannot speak to them.
Her comments came under redirect examination in the afternoon by Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Christopher Knowles. In the morning, for three hours, she was cross-examined by the defense who maintains she is the one who killed Harmony Montgomery, her 5-year-old stepdaughter.
Adam Montgomery helped to cover up the crime but he was not the one who murdered Harmony, according to the defense. Over two days, Public Defender Caroline Smith meticulously cross-examined Kayla, calling out the discrepancies between what she told investigators and what she testified to at trial.
In the end, however, Kayla maintained Adam beat his daughter to death because he was enraged she kept peeing and pooping in the car which served as the family’s home after their eviction the day before Thanksgiving 2019.
Asked by Knowles who killed Harmony, she answered simply, “Adam Montgomery.”
Knowles also asked her if she still loved Adam.
“I still care about him because he is the father of my children, he was my best friend,” Kayla said.
Sighing deeply, she added, “It’s just been hard for me to let go.”
Adam Montgomery, 34, as has been his practice, did not appear for the fourth day of his second-degree murder trial in Hillsborough County Superior Court North. He is charged with repeatedly punching Harmony, 5, in the head on Dec. 7, 2019, killing her; second-degree assault, for blackening Harmony’s eye in July of 2019; abuse of a corpse; falsifying physical evidence, and witness tampering, for attempting to induce Kayla to testify falsely.
He admitted his guilt on charges of abuse of a corpse and falsifying physical evidence. Defense Attorney James Brooks, in his opening statement, said that in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 2019, Adam returned to his car, where the family was living, to find Harmony dead in the back seat. Kayla had been alone with the children. She told him she didn’t know what happened to Harmony, Brooks said.
The defense said the two agreed to cover up the murder with the lie that Adam dropped Harmony off the day after Thanksgiving 2019 with her mother Crystal Sorey in Massachusetts.
Under Smith’s questioning, Kayla said Harmony had an accident—she didn’t recall whether it was pee or poop — about 2 to 3 a.m. on Dec. 7, 2019, in the car parked at the Colonial Village apartments. Adam was angry, she said, and punched Harmony in the head 10 -15 times because of it.
Kayla said she told Adam to stop but he didn’t. After, she did not change Harmony’s clothes or clean her.
So, Smith said, if she peed or pooped you left her sitting in her soiled pants. Kayla answered yes. “Why?” Smith asked. “Because I was scared, because he gave me the crazy eye,” Kayla said.
Kayla said she did not go back to sleep. In the morning, when everyone was awake Adam was angry again because of the smell in the car. At 7 a.m., Adam drove the family to the methadone clinic where she went in to get her dose and then Adam went for his. When he got back in the car, she said, Adam smelled urine again.
Adam, Kayla said, yelled at Harmony, and said, “Why do you keep doing that? Why don’t you tell us when you have to go,” and then struck her repeatedly in the head. Harmony began making “weird noises,” she said.
And then he drove the family to Burger King, but at stop lights along the way, Kayla said Adam would turn around and yell at Harmony and punch her repeatedly in the head.
After the third series of blows, he said, “I think I hurt her this time,” Kayla said.
In the backseat with Harmony were her two younger brothers, one 2 ½ years old and the other, 11 months. Kayla said when Harmony was struck, she cried and the younger child cried as well. Her older son, she said, didn’t cry that much.
Smith, however, had elicited from Kayla in earlier questioning that at times it was chaotic living in the car with three young children. Sometimes, when one cried, they all cried.
Kayla, however, said as Harmony was being repeatedly hit, “they didn’t really make any noise.”
Smith then said: “Kayla, that assault never happened, did it?”
“Yes, it did,” she replied.
Under redirect by Knowles, she said Adam, while striking Harmony, screamed “shut the fuck up” to the children.
She testified under direct examination that she put her hand up to try and stop Adam from hitting Harmony but he looked at her with a face of “pure evil.”
“So, you just got scared and shut up?” Smith asked. Yes, Kayla said.
Crystal Sorey, Harmony’s biological mother, was sitting in the gallery and cried as Kayla spoke about the abuse Harmony suffered and her death. Sorey was comforted by a friend.
Kayla said after hitting Harmony, Adam continued on to Burger King, ordered food in the drive-thru and then drove back to Colonial Village. Kayla fed food to the younger children and placed a croissant sandwich in Harmony’s lap but didn’t check to see if she ate it or was OK.
Kayla said she thought Harmony was asleep under the blanket. She always went to sleep, she said, after Adam hit her. At the apartment complex, Adam and Kayla both got high on heroin/fentanyl, again never checking on Harmony.
A couple of hours later, they left the complex – Kayla said she doesn’t remember why – but when they got to the intersection of Webster and Elm streets the car died. Adam went to the back seat and tried to wake up Harmony. That’s when they realized she was dead.
He couldn’t open the trunk to the car, because the car had lost all its electronics, so he had to pull the back seat down and pull out a Duffel bag in the back. He folded Harmony’s body in two and placed it in the bag.
They took a few belongings and walked back to the complex where they had a friend drive them back to the intersection to get the rest of their belongings. They stayed in the friend’s car for a couple of nights – with Adam placing the bag with Harmony’s body at times in a snowbank next to a dumpster.
From there they went to Crystal’s mother’s house where Harmony’s body remained in the hallway in a red and white cooler. By the end of December 2019, they were in a room at the Families In Transition family shelter on Lake Avenue.
There, Adam tucked the duffel bag in the ceiling but when others in the shelter began to complain about an odor – Kayla described it as “horrible” – Adam took it down. He went into the bathroom with it one day and after compressing the body, placed it in a garbage bag and then into a canvas CMC tote bag. Later, the bag was put into the freezer at the Portland Pie Co. where Adam worked briefly as a dishwasher and cook.
When the family got an apartment on Union Street, they brought Harmony’s body with them and placed it in the refrigerator. In the winter of 2020, Adam took the body out of the refrigerator, brought it to the bathroom where he put it in the tub and turned the hot water on to “dethaw” it, Kayla testified on direct examination.
Under cross-examination, she said she used scissors to cut off Harmony’s hoodie and Adam used the scissors to cut off the leggings. “You were working together to take the clothes off Harmony and put her in the bag,” Smith said.
“I was there in the beginning and I was there in the end,” Kayla said. She said she never saw any tools in the bathroom although she did know Adam had a small tabletop saw.
The state contends Adam dismembered the body in the bathroom and that later maintenance had to be called to clear a clogged bathtub drain.
In early March, Adam allegedly took the canvas bag with Harmony’s remains with him on a trip in a rented van into Massachusetts. When he returned, he no longer had the canvas bag. Harmony’s body has never been found.
After Harmony’s murder, Kayla said Adam tried to commit suicide twice but she talked him out of it.
He also began “losing it.” She said he was always physically, emotionally and mentally abusive of her. However, he came to believe she had installed microphones and cameras in their apartment, that she was cooperating with police, that she was cheating on him and that she was poisoning him.
“He wouldn’t let me do anything without him,” she said.
On March 17, 2020, Kayla took the children and left Adam. He had allegedly punched her twice in the face, giving her two black eyes.
As he had in his opening, Knowles again showed jurors a poster-sized photograph of Kayla with those injuries.
The trial, which is being live-streamed on WMUR and Court TV, resumes Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.