Defense points to stepmom in murder of Harmony Montgomery

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Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Christopher Knowles does opening arguments in the trial of Adam Montgomery. A photo of Harmony Montgomery was shown on the screen several times during opening arguments.

MANCHESTER, NH – As a nationwide search was underway for Harmony Montgomery, missing for more than two years, one person who wasn’t looking for her was Adam Montgomery, her father, who had “disposed of her like yesterday’s trash,” Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Christopher Knowles told jurors Thursday during his opening statement.

“Where is Harmony Montgomery?” is how the prosecutor began addressing the jurors in Hillsborough County Superior Court North. Knowles outlined the evidence investigators have compiled against Montgomery, 33, accused of beating Harmony to death and then moving her body from place to place, hiding it in a duffle bag, in his bedroom ceiling, a walk-in freezer and refrigerator before finally disposing of it.  Her body has never been found.

The one person who should have been looking for her and wasn’t was her father, Knowles said.

“He wasn’t looking for her. He was hoping she wouldn’t be found and that his heinous and depraved actions would not be brought to light,” Knowles said.  “That was because he is the only person in this world who knows where Harmony is, where her body is and he was hoping she would never be found.  The one person and only person who murdered Harmony, who butchered her body and who disposed of her like yesterday’s trash is the defendant.”

Public Defender James Brooks told the jurors that Adam Montgomery, who for the second day did not appear in court for his trial, did not kill Harmony.  He loved her, Brooks said.  It was Kayla Montgomery who was the last person to see Harmony alive.

Adam, he said, was out trying to make a living to support his family while Kayla remained in the car with Harmony and their two young sons, ages 2 and 2 months.  

“All needed attention, all needed to move around and none were doing well being in the car,” Brooks said. “Kayla wasn’t doing well either.”

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Prosecutors Christopher Knowles and Ben Agati, and Public Defender Caroline Smith at a bench conference with Judge Amy Messer.

Harmony’s body, he said, wasn’t discovered on Dec. 7, 2019, at the intersection of Webster and Elm streets in the middle of the day as Kayla claims. Brooks said they – Adam and Kayla – discovered her body much earlier in the “dark of night.  Kayla made Adam feel responsible.  It was not her fault, she insisted.  He had to protect her.  He had to protect their children.  Adam stood by Kayla and covered up Harmony’s death.”

Adam, Brooks said, was protecting Kayla, his wife and mother of their kids.  But, the defense attorney said, Adam is not “an innocent here.  He and Kayla covered up Harmony’s death.  You can and should find him guilty of those crimes.”

On Wednesday, Adam admitted his guilt on the charges of abuse of corpse and falsifying physical evidence.

Brooks said Adam and Kayla didn’t know what to do about Harmony so they placed her body in the Duffel bag in the trunk of the car. It was in there when the car broke down at Webster and Elm streets.

Brooks said that the evidence at trial will expose Kayla’s lies and show the only one being protected is her.

Knowles, in anticipating the defense would blame Kayla for Harmony’s death, said the trial is not about Kayla.  Kayla was Montgomery’s loose end, the one who witnessed him striking Harmony in July and on the day she died.  He said in the months after Harmony’s death, Montgomery conditioned Kayla and beat her, intimidating her into sticking to a story that he had dropped Harmony off with her mother, Crystal Sorey, the day before Thanksgiving.  

Knowles showed jurors a photograph of Kayla with two black eyes as proof of one assault.

Knowles told the jurors that they will hear who had motive for killing Harmony and getting rid of her.  He said Montgomery told a trusted friend that “Harmony was evil. She was a constant reminder of her mother, Crystal, who he hated.  He hated Harmony to his core.”

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Crystal Sorey, center, listens to the court proceedings on Feb. 8, 2024, and the details surrounding her daughter, Harmony’s, alleged murder at the hands of her father, Adam Montgomery. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

Harmony was in foster care at the age of two months, because her mother was in rehab and unable to care for her, and her foster parents were told she would probably live only until 7 months of age.  However, the child thrived under their care and she potty trained at an early age.  She also thrived under her mother’s care, Knowles said.

Knowles said Harmony was a joyful child, who loved Minnie Mouse and being an older sister.  That changed when Montgomery was granted custody of his daughter in February 2019.  She was 4 years old.  

In Montgomery’s care, she became scared, skinny and exhausted, the prosecutor said, and she was repeatedly beaten for wetting and soiling her pants.  Ten days before her death, the family was evicted from their home and forced to live in the car, making the bathroom accidents worse.

The prosecutor said that sometimes Harmony had so many bruises on her that Montgomery put a blanket over her when they were out in public to hide the injuries. 

He said in the days leading up the Harmony’s death, after the family was evicted from their 77 Gilford St. home, Adam had become increasingly enraged at the 35-pound little girl because she repeatedly soiled herself in the car. 

On the morning of Dec. 7, 2019, he drove the family to a methadone clinic in downtown Manchester.  Adam went in first for treatment and then Kayla for hers.  When Adam returned to the car, Harmony had had a bathroom accident and he struck her.

He was hungry and, after Kayla returned to the car, he drove the family to Burger King where Harmony once again soiled herself.

“As he pulled out of the parking lot at Burger King, he smelled that Harmony had another bathroom accident,” Knowles said.

Montgomery said, “Really Harmony?  Again?” and then he began punching Harmony.  “Blow after blow after blow and he didn’t stop with that first barrage,” Knowles said.  “He continued.  When he pulled up to a light, he continued blow after blow.  Kayla, who was in the passenger seat, put her hand up and tried to block what he was doing to Harmony.  In that moment, he looked at her as if to say you’re next.”

She put her hand down.

After the last strike to Harmony’s head, the child began moaning and making gurgling sounds for a few minutes.  Montgomery, Knowles said, had no concern for her and continued eating his food and driving to Colonial Village where he did drugs for 20 minutes.  

Kayla, he said, was too scared to look back.  “She was terrified to see what he had done to that small child,” Knowles told the jurors.

Later, as they left Colonial Village in the Chrysler Sebring, the car died.  

Knowles said that’s when Montgomery realized Harmony was dead.  Her murder, he said, was only the beginning.

“You will hear how he carried her for months, scheming, plotting coming up with a plan so she would never be found.” Knowles said.

Montgomery put her in a duffel bag and walked back to Colonial Village where a friend let them stay in his Audi for two days.  From there, they went to Kayla’s mother‘s house where Montgomery moved Harmony’s body to a red-and-white cooler he kept in a common hallway until the end of December 2019 when the family moved to the Families in Transition family shelter on Lake Avenue.

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The cooler where the prosecution said Harmony’s body was kept for a time after her murder. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

“He believed if no body was found, there would be no evidence and he would get away with this heinous crime,” Knowles said.  

First, Montgomery put Harmony in the closet but later removed a ceiling vent and put her inside there.

“That’s when Harmony became the dead girl rotting in the ceiling that he slept under for months,” Knowles said.  “The problem was her body began to rot, the heat was on causing the body to rot more and more and it smelled.”

People began to complain.

So, he brought Harmony’s body into the bathroom where he compressed and contorted it to fit in a tote bag “like this one,” Knowles said pulling a small Catholic Medical Center tote bag out from a brown paper bag. 

Montgomery, he said, then put the body back in the ceiling.  When he took the body down while it was still in the Duffel bag, Knowles said Harmony “was leaking her liquids that were pouring through that Duffel bag.”

Investigators, he said, looked into the ceiling   and when they took off the vent “the smell of decomposition was still present two years after the defendant removed Harmony’s body from the ceiling.”  There were deep stains in the drywall that, when tested by a Florida lab, were determined to be Harmony’s blood.

“He was careless in his meticulous cover-up,” Knowles said.   Surrounding the blood in the ceiling, he said, were Montgomery’s “fingerprints, his palm prints frozen there for time.”

Montgomery was living in a shelter and didn’t have access to a freezer and the smell was getting worse.  About that time,  Montgomery began working as a dishwasher and cook at the Portland Pie Company.  He took Harmony’s remains in that CMC tote bag and placed them in the freezer during his shifts.  People saw him with the bag but didn’t know what it contained.

Then the family moved to a Union Street apartment, where they began to discuss using a saw to cut up Harmony’s body to further decompose her so nothing could be found.

It was at the Union Street apartment where, Knowles said, Montgomery compressed her further and added lime to the bag. One day he spent most of the day in the bathroom.  He took Harmony out of the bag but she was frozen at that point and he put hot water on her. Kayla saw Adam squeezing and squishing Harmony’s body.  He asked her to help him.  Kayla held Harmony’s arm as Montgomery cut off her clothes but Kayla, Knowles said, couldn’t take it and went back to the living room to be with her sons.

Montgomery compressed the body further with a 40-pound bag of lime.  Montgomery said he could cut her in pieces, Knowles told the jury.  While working on Harmony, Montgomery “clogged the drain while squeezing her liquids out” and later had to call maintenance to unclog it.

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Harmony Montgomery’s mother, Crystal Sorey, wipes away her tears while on the witness stand during Thursday’s court proceedings. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

In March, Montgomery had a friend rent a U-Haul for him.  On March 3, 2020, he rented a room at the EconoLodge, where he put the CMC bag in the refrigerator.  Then he took the CMC bag with Harmony’s remains and drove to Boston, driving twice over the Tobin Bridge.

When he returned, he no longer had the CMC tote bag. Investigators years later would search a marshy area in Revere, Mass. for Harmony’s remains but never found her body.

The first person to take the stand at the conclusion of the opening statements was Michelle Raftery, Harmony’s foster mother.

Crystal Sorey, Harmony’s mother, then took the stand saying she last saw Harmony in an April 2019 during an online video conversation.  

She said she contacted Adam for more than a year trying to reach her daughter but had no success. 

Kevin Montgomery, Harmony’s great-uncle, then took the stand testifying to seeing Harmony in the summer of 2019 with a black eye.  He said he reported it to the state Department of Children, Youth and Families.

Adam, he said, told him Harmony suffered the injury when he “bashed her around the fucking house.”

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. on Friday.


 

About this Author

Pat Grossmith

Pat Grossmith is a freelance reporter.