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Father of missing 5-year-old Harmony Montgomery found guilty of second-degree murder in her death

Adam Montgomery, the father of missing 5-year-old Harmony Montgomery, was found guilty of second-degree murder in her death, a New Hampshire jury decided Thursday.

The father was also found guilty of second-degree assault, witness tampering, falsifying physical evidence and abuse of a corpse, according to court proceedings.

Harmony was reported missing in November 2021 by her mother, Crystal Sorey, who said she last saw the girl during a FaceTime call in the spring of 2019. Police said Harmony was last seen in October 2019.

Authorities concluded in August 2022 that the girl had been slain in Manchester, New Hampshire, in December 2019. Her remains have not been found.

CNN reached out to Montgomery’s attorneys, Caroline Smith and James Brooks, but neither were immediately available for comment.

Montgomery was indicted in January 2023 by a New Hampshire grand jury, accusing him of “repeatedly striking Harmony Montgomery on the head with a closed fist,” causing her death.

“It was a very, very difficult case,” Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati said during a news conference following the verdict.

“Every person who has their life taken from them, by murder, whether it is a 5-year-old child, or a 63-year-old man, or a 45-year-old, every single person has a value of their lives,” Agati said. “This case was different in terms of some of the attention that it garnered but not in terms of the value of Harmony’s life or the value of anybody else’s life.”

Agati noted law enforcement continues to relentlessly search for her. “We’re hoping somebody sees something,” he said.

A date for sentencing has not yet been determined but Montgomery faces the possibility of life in prison on the second-degree murder charge, according to online court documents.

Senior Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Benjamin Agati shows the jury a photograph of Adam Montgomery during closing arguments on February 21, 2024, in Manchester, New Hampshire. - Jim Davis/Pool/The Boston Globe/AP
Senior Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Benjamin Agati shows the jury a photograph of Adam Montgomery during closing arguments on February 21, 2024, in Manchester, New Hampshire. - Jim Davis/Pool/The Boston Globe/AP

Montgomery destroyed, concealed or hid Harmony’s body between December 7, 2019, and March 4, 2020, preventing authorities from conducting a proper investigation, state Attorney General John Formella said in 2022.

Formella said Montgomery purposely attempted to “induce or otherwise cause” Harmony’s stepmother, Kayla Montgomery, to falsely testify in the investigation into Harmony’s disappearance between December 7, 2019, and January 4, 2022.

State welfare officials failed the child, report said

101-page report released by the state’s Office of the Child Advocate details Harmony’s time in and out of foster care and a judge’s decision in February 2019 to award custody to Harmony’s father, who lived in New Hampshire.

“We do not know Harmony Montgomery’s ultimate fate and, unfortunately, we may never,” Maria Mossaides, the office’s director, said during a news conference in May 2022, when the report was released. “But we do know that this beautiful young child experienced many tragedies in her short life.”

The report, Mossaides said, highlights the ripple effects of state officials’ miscalculations of the young girl’s safety and the “unequal weight” that was placed on her parents’ rights versus the child’s well-being.

“By not putting her and her needs first, our system ultimately failed her,” Mossaides said. “We owe it to her to make the changes necessary to allow our system to do better in the future.”

The Office of the Child Advocate has oversight and ombudsperson responsibilities to ensure children in Massachusetts “receive appropriate, timely and quality state services,” with a particular focus on vulnerable and at-risk children.

Harmony was placed in father’s custody, report says

Harmony, born in June 2014, was blind in one eye and had other medical concerns, according to the report.

That summer, a Department of Children and Families office received reports of neglect while the baby was living with her mother, who was struggling with substance abuse, according to the report. The father was incarcerated at the time of her birth and “not involved in Harmony’s life,” the report said.

Harmony was legally removed from her mother’s care and placed in a foster home shortly after the reports of neglect, the report said. She remained under the custody of the Department of Children and Families but was returned to her mother’s care twice. By January 2018, Harmony was removed from her mother’s care “due to parental substance abuse,” and returned to a foster home, according to the report.

“Shortly after this placement, the foster parents expressed concern … about the impact to Harmony of the repeated reunification attempts with Ms. Sorey,” the report said. “The foster parents believed Harmony was experiencing trauma from the repeated return and removal from Ms. Sorey’s care.”

In the meantime, Department of Children and Families officials had been communicating with the father, who reached out in September 2016 – more than a year after he was released from prison – and said he wanted to be a part of Harmony’s life, according to the report.

Montgomery had inconsistent contact and supervised visits with his daughter over the next couple of years, the report said. However, in October 2018, he asked for Harmony to be placed in his care, according to the report.

The February 2019 hearing that approved Montgomery’s custody of Harmony was “the most shocking thing” in the child’s case, Mossaides said, because there was not more discussion of the child’s needs.

A judge awarded full custody and ruled a home study about Montgomery under the Interstate Compact of the Placement of Children (ICPS) – an agreement between all states governing the placement of children across borders – did not apply for constitutional reasons because he had been found to be a fit parent.

A Department of Children and Families attorney opposed that placement but did not present why the home study was needed and why it was a risk to move Harmony without evaluating Montgomery’s parental abilities, and did not adequately communicate the child’s needs, the report said.

Montgomery took his daughter to New Hampshire roughly a week after the hearing and the Department of Children and Families involvement ended, the report said. Sorey reported Harmony missing in November 2021, telling Manchester police she hadn’t seen the girl since April 2019. Manchester police announced Harmony’s disappearance in December 2021 but estimated she disappeared in early December 2019, the report said.

In a previous statement to CNN, after the report was publicized, the Department of Children and Families said it remained “deeply concerned” about the girl’s disappearance and added the child advocate’s office report “illustrates the grave responsibility of balancing the child’s safety and best interest and a parents’ legal rights to have custody of their child.”

The agency said it has already initiated “significant reforms,” including policies to work with children with disabilities, a multi-level review of reunifications, greater supervision of staff and implementing guidance for assessing whether a parent has the ability to safely care for a child.

CNN’s Melissa Alonso, Christina Maxouris and Jennifer Henderson contributed to this report.

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