‘Disgusting’ to play politics with Harmony Montgomery case, says Chief Aldenberg

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Manchester Police Chief Allen Aldenberg, foreground, and Assistant Chief Steve Mangone during a Jan. 3, 2022 news conference regarding the search for Harmony Montgomery. File Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

MANCHESTER, NH – Manchester Chief of Police Allen Aldenberg has been a first responder from Day 1 in the case of Harmony Montgomery, one of the most tragic and devastating investigations of his career.

This is why he is scratching his head over a pair of stories published July 4 and 6 in the NH Journal – a news site that focuses on politics with a conservative point of view – that appear to him to be politicizing a human tragedy during a heated election cycle – and creating a false narrative around how the investigation was initiated and handled by the city. 

Central to the NH Journal stories are two things: The existence of an email from Harmony’s mother, Crystal Sorey, to Mayor Joyce Craig, and a 91-A  Right to Know request put forth by NH Journal reporter Damien Fisher in mid-June, requesting a copy of that email. 

“It’s unfortunate – I’m not going to get into the middle of politics, but the email they’re talking about had no bearing on the investigation –  it was already underway,” said Aldenberg on Friday. “If they want to put some little girl into the middle of a political game, then we’re worse off in our society than I thought. That a little girl is somehow a political pawn, it’s disgusting to me. I‘m not protecting the mayor or her office when I say that; I’m protecting the sanctity of this investigation and the memory of a little girl.”


Right-To-Know Request

What initiated NH Journal’s interest in the Harmony Montgomery case and motivated them to file a Right to Know request is unclear. A request for comment from political editor Michael Graham was made for this story.

This NH Journal story states that they filed their Right-to-Know request seeking “all emails” between Craig and Sorey “last month soon after the affidavit detailing Harmony’s gruesome murder was unsealed.” The affidavit was unsealed on June 20, 2023. Fisher’s RTK request is dated June 12.

A search of the NH Journal site indicates they have not previously reported on the Harmony Montgomery case.

By New Hampshire statute, entities have five days to respond to a Right to Know request. According to the city’s IT department Fisher’s original email with the request, sent June 12 from a Gmail account, was caught in a spam folder. It was not until an attorney representing Fisher contacted the city on June 26 that the city became aware of the RTK request. The city’s IT Director, Jean Fortier, acknowledged the request via email to Fisher that day.  On June 28 city Internet Services Department Computer Specialist Matthew O’Rourke informed Fisher that, based on the terms he specified in his request, no matching email was found [see screenshots of the Boolean searches at the end of the story].

O’Rourke said Fisher’s request was not successful because it did not include an email address for Sorey and specified use of her full name, Crystal Renee Sorey, which was not the name she used to sign the email. 

O’Rourke suggested to Fisher that he resubmit his search with different parameters, but according to O’Rourke, there was no second request.

email
Left, an email message sent by Crystal Sorey on Dec. 29 through the city’s general email system and a response (right) from a city employee. Screenshots/NH Journal

The ‘Missing Child’ Case

Aldenberg said he was also puzzled by the NH Journal stories in that the email in question from Sorey is already part of the public record and has been, included in the flurry of information provided to reporters since the first “missing child” press conference was held on Dec. 31, 2021, up to and including the arrest of Adam Montgomery, the father, who has been charged with her murder.

It’s a sequence of events Aldenberg knows by heart – but also because his department conducted its own routine internal review of the entire case, including a search for phone calls and emails pertinent to the case. 

“We also did a full search of phone records and service logs and the only call from Crystal was on Nov. 18, 2021. That’s the call that started the process on our end, and reaching out to DCYF to ask what’s going on here,” Aldenberg said.

The only email that showed up during Manchester Police Department’s internal search was submitted Dec. 29, 2021, at 2:41 p.m. by Crystal Sorey through the city’s general contact form. A former city employee responded about two hours later. 

Aldenberg told reporters in January of 2022 that Sorey had reached out to Craig for help, and that the mayor had forwarded that email to police. Although the NH Journal story characterizes the mayor’s office response to Sorey’s email as dismissive, Aldenberg confirms that it was the mayor’s involvement that contributed to escalating the investigation, which was already underway.

“This is all public record,” Aldenberg said. “To be honest I think it’s extremely unfortunate that the death and investigation of the murder of a little girl has become some kind of political pawn. It’s beyond disgusting and unforgivable. The focus should be finding this little girl, which is and has been the No. 1 priority of Manchester Police Department.”


Governor, Attorney General involvement

In a follow-up NH Journal story, Fisher reports that Manchester At-Large Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur has asked Attorney General John Formella to look into “Craig’s questionable handling of a Right to Know request.”

Fisher’s story also credits Gov. Chris Sununu with saying that Craig’s mishandling of the matter “is symptomatic of her failed leadership in Manchester across the board, from housing to education to the opioid crisis.”

When asked Friday if Sununu was being critical of the city’s handling of the Harmony Montgomery case, Ben Vihstadt, Sununu’s communication director, said that Sununu’s comments on Craig’s leadership were in general and not specific to the case.

Craig has announced she is exploring a run for governor. Sununu, who recently confirmed he is not entering the 2024 Presidential race, has not yet ruled out a fifth term. Over the years there has been plenty of public rancor between the mayor, a Democrat, and the governor, a Republican.

“The governor was asked two separate questions about Mayor Craig by New Hampshire Journal. One about her leadership in general, another about Alderman Levasseur’s request. If you have questions about how New Hampshire Journal reported this story, you are free to reach out to them,” wrote Vihstadt.

Aldenberg says he reads the governor’s comments differently.

“I’m privy to more information, relative to the involvement of outside agencies other than Manchester Police involving Harmony and her family. I’ve taken the high road and not spoken about it publicly, but someday those discussions are going to have to be had,” Aldenberg said.

“I’m really bothered by it. There are things I’m aware of where there were some failures and they were not by Manchester Police or the city of Manchester. The people involved, they know where those failures are but they don’t want to speak about it because they will hide behind some type of statutory language that allows them not to,” Aldenberg said.

When reached Friday for comment, the mayor’s Chief of Staff Shannon MacLeod, provided the following statement: 

“This is an incredibly tragic case that was met with a serious and urgent response from Manchester authorities as soon as it was brought to their attention. All correspondence between Ms. Sorey and the Mayor’s office and the timeline for the investigation were provided to the press as early as January 2022. Manchester police had already opened an investigation into Harmony Montgomery’s disappearance at the time Ms. Sorey reached out on December 29th, 2021.

“The failures of DCYF under Governor Sununu have been well documented and have had tragic consequences for children across New Hampshire. The Mayor’s office will continue to work with our law enforcement and community partners to protect our most vulnerable children. 

“If residents have any information regarding the Harmony Montgomery case, the Mayor’s office continues to implore you to reach out to law enforcement at (603) 203-6060.”


Related Documents:

Below: Reporter Damien Fisher’s Right-to-Know request sent to the city via email.


Screenshot 2023 07 08 at 10.40.12 AM


Below are images of the results of the city’s Boolean searches for the RTK request.


 

About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of ManchesterInkLink.com. Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!