Montgomery trial: Defense says Kayla lied; Proscutors say Adam lied, so who killed Harmony?

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MANCHESTER, NH – A jury is deliberating the guilt or innocence of Adam Montgomery, accused of beating his 5-year-old daughter to death, hiding her body for months, and then disposing of it, after hearing testimony over 10 days in Hillsborough County Superior Court North.

The testimony of Kayla Montgomery, who said she witnessed her husband Adam beat Harmony, her stepdaughter, to death, is enough by itself to convict him of murdering her but it is also corroborated by many witnesses, prosecutor Benjamin Agati told jurors Wednesday in his closing argument.

The defense, however, maintains that Kayla was the one who killed Harmony and that she told lie upon lie, interspersed with truths, to protect herself.  Public Defender Caroline Smith argued that Kayla’s account of what happened on Dec. 7, 2017, when   Harmony died, is “crazy.”

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Pictured before the start of the proceedings are Judge Amy Messer (center) Senior Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Benjamin Agati (second from left) Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Christopher Knowles (far left) Defense Attorney Caroline Smith (second from right) and Defense Attorney James Brooks (far right). Photo/Jim Davis

Kayla testified that Adam repeatedly beat Harmony inside their Chrysler Sebring because she soiled herself.  The beatings she said, started around 2 a.m. on Dec. 7, 2017, when the family were sleeping in their Chrysler Sebring at Colonial Village.  She was beaten again just before 7 a.m. when Adam woke up and smelled urine again.  Harmony was struck again inside the car when they were parked outside the methadone clinic and he came out of the clinic and smelled urine again. And she was repeatedly punched in the head as the family drove to Burger King, with Adam pummeling the child at every traffic light.

Kayla said she heard moaning in the back seat and, after the last time Adam punched Harmony, he said, “I think I hurt her this time. I think I did something.”

She said Kayla’s story is crazy because no one could get away with beating a child in broad daylight in public and no woman would stay with a man if he did what she said he did.

“She’s lying because she has something to hide still because the truth points to her,” Smith said in her closing.  “Adam did some very, very bad things but he did not kill his daughter.”  

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Senior Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Benjamin Agati as during closing arguments he shows the jury a photograph of the defendant, who Agati told them murdered his daughter. Photo/Jim Davis for the Boston Globe

The defense maintained Harmony died in the middle of the night when Kayla was alone in the car with the children and he was out on business.  The child was already dead and stored in the Duffel bag in the trunk when they went to the methadone clinic that morning, the defense contended.

When Kayla and Adam left Colonial Village parking lot, after returning from Burger King and doing drugs, the car broke down at the intersection of Webster and Elm streets.  That wasn’t when they first realized Harmony was dead because, the defense contends, she was already in the Duffel bag in the trunk of the car.

She asked the jurors, “Can you put your trust, in one of the most important decisions of your life, in Kayla because that is what you have to do.  Police know she’s a liar.  The state knows she’s a liar.”

And, she said, Kayla’s lies were accepted because Adam, before being charged with murder, already was accused of assaulting Harmony.

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Senior Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Benjamin Agati (right) as during closing arguments he shows the jury a photograph of the defendant, who he told them murdered his daughter, whose photo is on the screen at left. Photo/Jim Davis for the Boston Globe

Agati, a New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General, in his closing argument said Adam was no loving, caring parent but an “enraged tyrant who had no business being around young Harmony.”

He reminded the jury that the defense told them they can and should find him guilty of falsifying physical evidence and abuse of corpse.  He also is charged with second-degree murder; falsifying physical evidence and witness tampering.

Agati rattled off what those first two charges entailed:  “He carried Harmony’s body away from the broken down car in a Duffel bag; hid her at Colonial Village while staying in Anthony Bodero’s blue Audi for two nights; put Harmony in a cooler for weeks; into the CMC bag; into the walk-in cooler at Portland Pie Company; into the fridge; into the freezer; defrosted her in showers; consolidated her body once again; into the fridge at the EconoLodge; tricked his friend into renting the U-Haul and then dumped her body somewhere all to make sure the evidence that could have been brought before you to show he murdered her” was not available.

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Crystal Sorey, Harmony Montgomery’s mother, as she listens to the prosecution’s closing argument. Photo/Jim Davis for the Boston Globe

“He admits what he can’t deny and he denies what he can’t afford to admit,” Agati said.

He told the jury Adam was not taking responsibility for those acts; it was a tactical decision.  Agati said Adam is hoping by conceding his guilt on those two charges “they will let him slide on the murder charge.”

He started his argument reminding the jury what Adam told Travis Beach, who arranged the rental of a U-Haul van for him, outside the EconoLodge.   Adam repeatedly told him, “I fucked up.”   

It was March 4, 2020, the same night he “disappeared Harmony’s body,” Agati said.  He pointed out Adam said “I” and not “she, not we, not Kayla.  I ‘I fucked up.’ Singular, personal, solo.”

Adam, he said, is a murderer.

Murderers, he said, want to get rid of the evidence; they’re thinking no body, no evidence.

“They clean bathrooms with ammonia like this defendant did,” Agati said.  “They desecrate and hide the dead. That’s what he did.”

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Defense Attorney Caroline Smith as she shows a photograph of Harmony Montgomery to the jury during her closing argument. Photo/Jim Davis for the Boston Globe

He said  Kayla didn’t make herself out to be a saint and the defendant a devil when she testified.  She cried on the stand when she said she still cared for Adam.

What she is, he said, “is a battered woman admitting an inconvenient and terrible truth; that she failed in a moment in life when her character was put to the test. She did nothing to help Harmony.”

But, he said, she didn’t kill her, “only the defendant did that.”

He told the jurors they need not consider Kayla’s testimony alone.  She has to tell the truth under her plea agreement and if she doesn’t, “this all comes back on her. Her agreement is null and void.”

Agati said there were 900 pieces of evidence in the case and jurors heard from 50 witnesses, with some of them corroborating Kayla’s testimony.

Nicole Giles, a woman who lived at the Families in Transition shelter in the winter of 2020 at the same time as the Montgomery family, saw bruises on Kayla’s body before Harmony was known to be missing.

Rose Smith, he said, saw Kayla’s bruises after Adam beat her.  When she went to give Kayla her phone to call for help, Adam wrenched it from her hand and said, “You’re not going to give my wife that phone.”  

Kayla, he said, testified when they lived in the Union Street apartment that Adam thought police were listening in on him; he was paranoid and thought Kayla was trying to poison him.  “That is a sign of a guilty conscience,” Agati said.

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Many members of the Manchester Police Department were present in the courtroom listening to closing arguments. Photo/Jim Davis for the Boston Globe

Then there was the withdrawal of $500 from the Citizens Bank ATM on South Willow Street and the purchase 20 minutes later at the nearby Home Depot of lime, a grinder saw, a blade and battery totaling about $400.  Kayla testified that Adam had discussed dismembering Harmony’s remains and buying tools when they received their tax refund.

Agati said it was no coincidence the following day after that purchase, Adam called maintenance because the bathtub, where the day before Kayla said he had thawed Harmony’s body and squished out the liquids, was clogged.

Adam, he told the jury, never considered Harmony “a daughter, a blessing.”   

His behavior in response to the bathroom accidents shows that when he killed her, she wasn’t a person, the prosecutor said, she was an object, a thing, an “it.”  And he wanted to teach “it” a lesson and hit her repeatedly until he told Kayla, “I think I hurt her this time.  I think I did something.  He might as well have said he broke it.  And like any broken thing that nobody ever really loved, they throw it away. He may have genetically donated half his DNA to her but she was not his daughter.” 

Rebecca Maines, he said, testified that Adam told her he hated Harmony because she reminded him of her mother.  And, she said, Adam said Harmony “shit” her pants in the car on purpose.

“Take the emotion out and look at the facts,” he said.  “Call him a killer. Call him a tyrant; rageful, maybe evil but don’t call him a father.”

He said Kayla Montgomery is not blameless but she is credible.  He said the jury doesn’t have to like her to believe her and they could have good reasons for hating her.

The evidence, however, corroborates her testimony, Agati said.

The jury deliberated for about 2 hours and 20 minutes on Wednesday before going home for the day. Deliberations will resume Thursday at 8:45 a.m. in Hillsborough County Superior Court North.


 

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Pat Grossmith

Pat Grossmith is a freelance reporter.