Harmony Montgomery’s mom: Officials ‘dropped the ball’

Northeast News

CONCORD, N.H. (AP/NewsNation) — On Monday, police concluded their search of the Manchester, New Hampshire, home where missing 7-year-old Harmony Montgomery last lived. According to the mother of the girl—who vanished in 2019 at age 5, but was not reported missing until late last year—the search didn’t yield any new revelations.

Police searched the Manchester property once at end of last year, and then again for three days, starting Saturday. The attorney general’s office said in a news release Monday that no additional information will be released at this time, “due to the ongoing investigation.”

Crystal Sorey, Harmony’s mother, said she brought concerns about her daughter’s safety to police and child welfare workers before a missing person case was opened about a month ago. She said she last saw her daughter on a Facetime call days before Easter in 2019. At the time Sorey said she seemed frightened.

“I showed her her basket. I said, ‘I’m coming in a couple of days. Mommy got you a basket,’” Sorey said. “I held on to the basket for a year and some change, hoping I’d have a chance to give it to her.”

A missing person case wasn’t opened for Harmony until late last year despite Sorey’s efforts to communicate with her daughter, she said. She lost custody of Harmony in 2018 when the girl went to live with her father, 31-year-old Adam Montgomery. On New Year’s Eve, Manchester police arrested Adam Montgomery on charges of felony second-degree assault, interference with custody, and endangering the welfare of a child.

“I’m not gonna sit here and act like I’m innocent,” Sorey said. “I’m a recovering addict. When I gave birth to her, I didn’t know nothing about being a parent. I didn’t know nothing about getting in recovery. But I never stopped trying. I always went into program after program after program trying to prove to her and my family that I wasn’t going to stop until I got better.”

Sorey has since regained sobriety, court records show. She now says officials “dropped the ball on this one” and “let it slip through the cracks.”

The search for Harmony continued Monday as investigators looked through her last known home in Manchester and used hot water to thaw the ground so they could dig. Sorey said she didn’t believe officers found anything in the home, and her gut tells her Harmony is still alive.

“A mother knows,” Sorey said. “You know when your baby’s not here anymore. You feel it the day that it happens.”

Another gut feeling led Sorey to call police on November 18 to report Harmony missing. “I thought she was with her dad and he was just being a jerk,” Sorey said. “Really, that’s what I hoped was happening, you know? But in my heart, I knew something was wrong. Something was very wrong.”

Adam’s uncle, Kevin Montgomery, told police the girl had a black eye when he returned from a trip to Florida in July 2019 and that he notified New Hampshire’s Division of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). He also said he gave family services “plenty of evidence and they ignored it,” telling investigators that Harmony was subject to forms of discipline that included being “spanked hard on the butt,” standing in the corner for hours, and scrubbing the toilet with her toothbrush, court records show.

“There were just things that raised an alarm with me. And I called the authorities,” Kevin said. “And just be clear: I love the police. They’re doing everything they can. First and foremost, family services failed my niece here. And that’s why we’re here today. If they listened in the first place, this wouldn’t be happening.”

He said he hasn’t spoken with his nephew Adam Montgomery, who has been charged in the case, “in years.” Despite the uncertainty, Kevin remains optimistic. “My gut tells me there’s always hope until you tell me there’s no hope left to have,” he said.

Prosecutors announced that Adam’s current wife, 31-year-old Kayla Montgomery, was also arrested. She is accused of failing to remove Harmony from the family’s account with the state’s Division of Family Assistance once she was no longer living with her and Adam, receiving $1,500 in food stamps on her behalf.

The two have pleaded not guilty. Representatives from Hillsborough Superior Court could not immediately be reached after hours Monday to provide further information about the case, including the name of any lawyers who might be representing Montgomery in the criminal case.

But according to court documents released Tuesday, prosecutors plan to drop the welfare fraud charge against Kayla and replace it with nine other charges. The change was being made based on new information provided by the state Department of Health and Human Services about Kayla Montgomery, the attorney general’s office said.

Kalya’s lawyer asked that she be released from jail. The judge agreed to the prosecution’s request for $5,000 bail. On Monday, her lawyer filed a motion asking for bail reconsideration after being informed by prosecutors that the welfare fraud charge, a felony, “ is unfounded, although a lesser charge or charges may be warranted.”

Prosecutors responded that after a review of Kayla’s file and consultation with Health Department employees, it anticipates filing a theft charge—also a felony—and eight misdemeanor charges. Those weren’t specified. The welfare charge would be dropped. The bail should remain the same, the motion said. Prosecutors said they contacted her lawyer about the anticipated new charges, but it was before that conversation that the defense filed its bail reconsideration motion on the welfare charge.

In an interview with police on New Year’s Eve, Kayla Montgomery—who shares three children with her husband, ages 4, 2, and 1—said she last saw Harmony in November or December 2019. She said her husband was driving Harmony to the child’s mother in Massachusetts. She said she believed Harmony had been returned to the mother and never saw or heard about Harmony after that day, according to the police document. Kayla Montgomery also told police she hadn’t seen Adam since October and had not spoken to him since November.

A “change report” submitted by Kayla Montgomery for food stamps on Feb. 25, 2019—three days after her husband received legal custody of Harmony—said Harmony “is now currently living with us full-time. She is 4 years old and permanently blind in one eye, she was born like that,” according to a police document.

As of January 2021, further food stamp paperwork indicated her household consisted of two married adults and four children, “three in common and all claimed as tax dependents.” A caseworker had added a note saying Kayla Montgomery “seemed confused about whether or not Harmony lived there because (she) goes to her mom’s every other weekend,” according to the document.

That June, an account change report noted that case management for Harmony was closed, noting “client said she moved back with her mother and to remove her from her case,” the document said.

Police are still requesting help from the public in locating Harmony. Anyone with information can call (603) 203-6060, he said. Manchester police have also said a reward for information that helps find Harmony has also grown to $94,000. Harmony’s great-uncle also started a fundraising effort. Manchester police said they were working to find her with the state Division for Children, Youth and Families and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“An innocent child is unaccounted for and we are working tirelessly to get the answers needed to locate her,” police said in a news release about the increased donations being offered by local businesses.

Gov. Chris Sununu, during his weekly news conference on COVID-19 updates, also pleaded for help in finding Harmony. “We need to bring her home safely,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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