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Father sentenced to 45 years to life in prison for the killing of his 5-year-old daughter Harmony Montgomery

By Lauren Mascarenhas and Eric Levenson, CNN

(CNN) — The New Hampshire man convicted of murdering his 5-year-old daughter Harmony Montgomery was sentenced Thursday to 45 years to life in prison in a case that spurred an investigation into the actions of the child protective services system and rattled relations between Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Adam Montgomery was found guilty in February of second-degree murder in the 2019 death of his daughter Harmony, who was reported missing in 2021. He was also found guilty of second-degree assault, witness tampering, falsifying physical evidence and abuse of a corpse, according to court documents.

He was sentenced to 45 years to life for the murder charge, 4 to 8 years for assault, 3.5 to 7 years for witness tampering, and 3.5 to 7 years for falsifying evidence. He also received a 12-month suspended sentence for abuse of a corpse. The charges will be served consecutively, meaning one after the other, for a total minimum of 56 years in prison, the judge ruled.

The sentencing comes five years after a Massachusetts judge placed Harmony, who had cycled in and out of foster care as a child, in Montgomery’s custody in New Hampshire – a decision that has come under intense scrutiny.

Her mother last spoke to Harmony in spring of 2019 in a FaceTime call but then was unable to reach her. According to the prosecution’s sentencing memo, Montgomery beat Harmony to death on December 7, 2019, and then engaged in the “transportation and consolidation of her body over three months” before disposing of her corpse on March 4, 2020. He then lied about her whereabouts for more than two years, according to prosecutors.

In 2022, the Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate wrote a 101-page report on Harmony’s case and found state officials prioritized Harmony’s parents’ rights over the girl’s well-being.

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

Harmony’s remains still have not been found, though a judge declared her legally dead in March at the request of her mother, Crystal Sorey, CNN affiliate WMUR reported.

‘I love Harmony. I miss her.’

In court Thursday, several people spoke to provide victim impact statements. Harmony’s mother, Crystal Sorey, talked about her love for her daughter and hatred for the “monster” and “coward” who killed her.

“She lit up a room when she walked in, she made a mark wherever she went, and you couldn’t stand it,” she said to Montgomery.

The couple who adopted Harmony’s younger brother read a moving statement from the 7-year-old boy.

“I love Harmony. I miss her. I hope I get to see her again,” Johnathan Bobbitt-Miller read on the boy’s behalf. “My sister had beautiful blue eyes and we smile alike. I liked having fun with her on the playground. She gave me a broken Elmo toy that was hers. I still have that, but I have the Minnie Mouse pillow and a new Elmo that’s not broken. I keep it in my closet for her.

“I’m really sad she’s an angel. I miss her. She was my best friend. I hope she can see me playing basketball, being silly with my brothers, and I wish I could bring Harmony to my school to meet my friends and my teacher,” he read.

In a sentencing memo, prosecutors had asked that Montgomery be sentenced to 56 years to life in prison for all of the crimes. Senior Assistant Attorney General Ben Agati said in court they would lower their sentencing recommendations to the minimum if Montgomery told them where Harmony’s body is buried. The prosecutor then paused for a period, and Montgomery stayed silent.

“Time and time again – and about 30 seconds ago – the defendant chose to be heartless, immoral, selfish and unapologetic,” the prosecutor said.

Meanwhile, the defense requested he receive a sentence less than the state’s recommendation and that the charges be served concurrently. Defense attorney Caroline Smith called the prosecution’s offer of a lower sentence a “stunt.”

“They were seeking a reaction today from Adam Montgomery in the courtroom by their stunt,” she said.

Montgomery did not speak, but Smith said he maintained his innocence on the murder charge.

“Adam Montgomery did not kill his daughter, but when he discovered his daughter’s death he broke and he did inexplicable things,” she said. “Even he can’t explain his actions, but eventually he pulled it together and was able to say goodbye to his daughter, and that’s what he did.”

A life in and out of foster care

The 101-page report by the Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate detailed Harmony’s time bouncing between her mother’s care and foster care before a judge decided to award custody to Montgomery in 2019.

Harmony was born in June 2014 and 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. Her 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, the report said, and she cycled between her mother’s care and the care of the Department of Children and Families over several years.

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

In February 2019, a judge awarded him 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.

Montgomery then 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, saying she hadn’t seen her daughter since a FaceTime call in the spring of 2019. Manchester Police then announced a search for her whereabouts, leading to Montgomery’s arrest in early 2022.

The judge’s decision to place Harmony with her father has come under intense scrutiny. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu wrote a scathing letter to the chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court about the decision.

Sentencing memo describes beatings

In the prosecution’s sentencing memo, prosecutors said some of the charges stemmed from an episode in 2019, in which Montgomery struck Harmony “with such force that he altered the profile of her face.”

Montgomery attacked Harmony several times on December 7 after she had a bathroom accident, ultimately killing her, the memo states.

“The defendant struck Harmony numerous times while driving, stopping at lights several times to continue the attack. He only stopped striking Harmony when he felt something ‘different’ and acknowledged out loud that he believed he ‘really hurt her this time,’” the sentencing memo reads.

It’s possible that Montgomery could have spared Harmony some pain, or even saved her, by getting her help after the attacks, prosecutors said. The fact that he chose not to, they argued, displayed a level of “cruelty and depravity” that warrants more than just the minimum sentence.

In the two years after murdering Harmony, prosecutors said Montgomery told others, including law enforcement officers, that his daughter was alive and well with her mother in Massachusetts.

Montgomery then embarked on a “strategy of blaming others for Harmony’s injuries and death,” the sentencing memo states.

Prosecutors said he made up a lie about what happened to Harmony and beat her stepmother, Kayla Montgomery, ordering her to stick to the story.

Kayla Montgomery pleaded guilty in 2022 to lying to a grand jury about her whereabouts the last time her stepdaughter was seen, according to a parole hearing and court records. She testified against her estranged husband in February and was granted parole in March.

In the sentencing memo, prosecutors argued that Montgomery’s “extensive” criminal history, which includes threatening a teenager with a knife and shooting a person in the face during a robbery, should be considered in his sentencing.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Nicki Brown, Melissa Alonso, Christina Maxouris, Nic F. Anderson and Zenebou Sylla contributed to this report.

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