CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire man brutally beat his 5-year-old daughter to death and spent months moving her body around before disposing of it “like yesterday's trash,” a prosecutor said Thursday. But the man's lawyer said he didn't harm the child and the last person who saw her alive — the man's estranged wife — won't say what happened.
Adam Montgomery, 34, pleaded not guilty in 2022 to charges of second-degree murder, abuse of a corpse, falsifying physical evidence, assault and witness tampering regarding his daughter, Harmony Montgomery. Police first learned she was missing in December 2021 and that she was last seen in 2019.
Police later said Harmony, whose body has not been found, had been killed on Dec. 7, 2019, based on interviews with the wife. At the time she was declared missing, there were photos of her widely circulated on social media.
Adam Montgomery declined to attend the opening statements of his trial Thursday. The day before, he told a judge via a teleconference from jail that his attorneys were acknowledging guilt on the charges of falsifying physical evidence and abusing a corpse. Last year, he said in court in an unrelated case that he didn't kill his daughter.
Harmony was born in 2014 in Massachusetts to parents who were no longer together. She lived on and off with foster parents and her mother.
“I'm a recovering drug addict,” her mother, Crystal Sorey, testified Thursday. “I was struggling at the time.” She said Harmony was born blind in one eye, but she thrived, describing her as “amazing, rambunctious, very smart.” Adam eventually got custody of Harmony in February 2019.
Sorey said she last saw Harmony online in April 2019, saying Adam didn't respond to requests for a visit afterward. She contacted police in 2021.
Adam and Harmony Montgomery lived in a house in Manchester, New Hampshire, with his wife, Kayla, and their two younger children. Adam's uncle, Kevin Montgomery, also lived there. Kevin Montgomery testified that after returning from a trip to see family in July 2019, he saw Harmony with a black eye. He said Adam told him he had “bashed her around the house” after seeing her with her hands over the mouth of one of his sons.
Kevin Montgomery testified he moved out and contacted numerous family members, Sorey and the state Division for Children, Youth and Families “to get help” for Harmony.
A child protective services worker visited the home that July after getting an anonymous report but only saw a fleeting glimpse of Harmony getting into a car with her father. Demetrios Tsaros testified that during a longer visit in August, he noticed a small red mark under one of Harmony's eyes and some discoloration. Tsaros said Adam told him his children were playing with foam swords and Harmony was struck in the eye. Tsaros called Adam in January 2020 and was told that Harmony was living with Sorey. Tsaros said he left a message on Sorey's cellphone.
Ten days before Harmony died, the family was evicted from the home and lived in their car, prosecutor Christopher Knowles said.
He said Harmony was a different child by then — thin, bruised, and having frequent bathroom accidents. Each time Harmony had an accident, her father would strike her, citing information Kayla provided to police, the prosecutor said.
On the day Harmony died, Knowles said Adam Montgomery punched her multiple times in the car after she had two accidents. Following the second incident, he drove to a fast-food restaurant, ordered food, and then did drugs as Harmony could be heard moaning in the back of the car.
A bit later that day, the car broke down, and that's when Adam and Kayla Montgomery discovered she had died, Knowles said. Adam put her body in a duffel bag that went into the trunk, Knowles said. For the next few months, he moved the body into a cooler in the hallway of his mother-in-law's apartment building, the ceiling vent of a homeless shelter and into a freezer, Knowles said. Her remains, which were compressed, were eventually moved to a tote bag.
Adam took steps to break down and dispose of Harmony's remains, Knowles said, buying a saw, blades and lime. He rented a moving truck in March 2020, with toll data showing the truck in question crossed the Tobin Bridge in Boston multiple times.
“He believed that if there was no body, there could be no evidence of the horrible things that he did to her, and he would get away with it," Knowles said.
During this time, Adam suspected that Kayla was cooperating with police and he started to beat her, Knowles said. Kayla, who is serving an 18-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to perjury charges, is expected to testify against Adam. She told police that she became afraid of Adam and was unable to stop him when he hit Harmony in the car, Knowles said.
But Kayla has been lying to protect herself, Adam's attorney, James Brooks, said. During his opening statement, he said that a note found in her jail cell showed her willingness to “betray” Adam for a bargain with prosecutors and that she longed to kiss and be intimate with him one more time.
“She had a whole wish list, a set of demands,” Brooks said. “She wanted ‘immunity from everything,’" he said, quoting from her note.
Brooks pointed out inconsistencies in her account of what happened. He also said that Harmony had died the night before Kayla said she did and was already in a duffel bag in the trunk of their car.
The trial is expected to last through the rest of the month. Adam Montgomery, who was sentenced last year to a minimum of 32 1/2 years in prison on gun charges, could face up to life in prison on the second-degree murder charge if convicted.