CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The estranged wife of a New Hampshire man accused of beating his young daughter to death testified Friday that he punched the 5-year-old to death, folded her body into a duffel bag, then hid it in the trunk of his car, then a ceiling vent and a restaurant freezer while deciding how to dispose of the body.
Kayla Montgomery testified that her stepdaughter, Harmony Montgomery, whose body has not been found, died Dec. 7, 2019, in a car the family was living in after getting evicted. It was the third day of Adam Montgomery's murder trial in Manchester, which he hasn't been attending.
Kayla Montgomery said Harmony was potty trained, but had begun having frequent accidents. She testified that her husband punched Harmony in the head after two such accidents in the car.
He later covered Harmony with a blanket as the child cried, moaned and eventually went silent, the stepmother said. Their car broke down soon afterward and Adam Montgomery put Harmony's body in the duffel bag, she said.
“He, like, folded her in half and put her in the duffel bag,” she said.
Adam Montgomery, 34, is charged with second-degree murder, assault and witness tampering. In opening statements Thursday, his lawyers acknowledged he was guilty of two other charges — falsifying evidence and abusing a corpse. But they said he did not kill Harmony and repeatedly suggested Kayla Montgomery was lying to protect herself.
“Only she knows the truth,” public defender James T. Brooks told the jury on Thursday. “And only she has benefitted from all the lies she has told.”
Prosecutors asked Kayla Montgomery to look at jurors Friday as she told them she did not kill the girl. Under cross examination, she acknowledged that she similarly looked at grand jurors in May 2022 and falsely told them she didn't know what had happened to her stepdaughter.
“So, looking at jurors while you’re lying doesn’t change the lie, right?" asked defense attorney Caroline Smith.
“Right,” said Montgomery, who is serving an 18-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to perjury for lying during grand jury testimony about where she was when Harmony was last seen.
Under questioning by Smith, she acknowledged at least a dozen other false statements.
“You said the last time you saw Harmony, she was happy,” Smith said. “You had no problem with lying to the grand jury.”
Police didn't learn that Harmony was missing until December 2021, nearly two years after she was last seen alive.
Kayla Montgomery said she put her arm up to stop her husband from hitting Harmony on Dec. 7, but that “he gave me this look that was like, evil, his crazy eyes.”
“I was scared," she said.
She also testified that her husband told her he had struck Harmony after she saw the girl with a black eye in July 2019.
The duffel bag made it from the trunk of a friend's car to a hallway cooler near an apartment where Kayla Montgomery's mother lived, and then to a ceiling vent in a shelter where the family stayed for about six weeks.
Eventually, Harmony's remains began to smell, and Adam Montgomery moved them into trash bags which he put into a large tote bag, Kayla Montgomery testified. She said she put the bag in a stroller and took it to a restaurant where her husband worked, and he put it in the freezer. He later moved the bag to the refrigerator of an apartment where they were staying in Manchester.
Adam Montgomery talked about dismembering Harmony and bought tools and lime, she testified.
She said he put the body in the bathtub and turned on the shower to thaw it, and asked her to help him cut off Harmony's clothes, which she did.
She left the room soon after that. “I couldn't be there anymore. I couldn't handle it. I didn't want to see anything,” she said.
Under cross examination, Smith reminded Montgomery that she accurately described Harmony's clothing in her grand jury testimony in 2022 but didn't mention that she helped cut them off.
“You talked to the jury with a straight face about remembering what she was wearing,” said Smith, who said the stepmother lied to shift the blame to her husband.
Montgomery, who will return to the stand Monday, said her husband drove away with Harmony's remains in a rental truck in March 2020, and that he didn't say where he was going. Not long after that, he started to suspect that she might go to the police, so he began punching her, giving her black eyes, she said. She eventually ran away from him in March 2021.
Montgomery also was a prosecution witness last year in an unrelated case in which her husband was convicted of gun theft charges. He was sentenced to over 30 years in prison, taking a moment to proclaim his innocence in his daughter’s death.
Associated Press writer Holly Ramer contributed to this report.