The last time that Harmony Montgomery was seen, she was 5 years old, a little girl with a sweet smile, glasses, and pigtails.
That was more than two years ago.
Then on Wednesday, authorities in New Hampshire who have been desperately searching for the girl for weeks announced they have arrested her father, Adam M. Montgomery, 31, for allegedly assaulting his daughter in 2019 and endangering her welfare. Among the disturbing details that have emerged: Montgomery refused to tell police in Manchester where the child was during an interview on New Year’s Eve, and he allegedly told relatives he had attacked the child in the past, according to court records.
Few other details about the case have emerged. But the nature of the disappearance has raised a number of questions about child welfare agencies in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts — Harmony spent at least part of her earliest years in a Massachusetts shelter with her mother — and why the Massachusetts juvenile court system awarded custody of Harmony in February 2019 to Montgomery, a New Hampshire resident with a violent criminal history.
In a statement, Maria Mossaides, director of the Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate, said that her office was in the process of reviewing the state’s involvement with the family.
“We are aware of the evolving situation regarding Harmony Montgomery’s disappearance and share the public’s grave concern for her safety and well-being,” she said. “We are hopeful that Harmony will be found soon.”
The Baker administration on Wednesday said the state’s child welfare agency was cooperating with the investigation, but didn’t answer questions about how the Department of Children and Families handled Harmony’s case. Juvenile court case records are confidential in Massachusetts, and judiciary officials did not respond to an inquiry about the proceedings involving Harmony.
The girl’s disappearance came to the attention of New Hampshire authorities on Nov. 18, when Harmony’s mother, Crystal Sorey, contacted Manchester police to say she could not locate her daughter, according to a police affidavit.
Sorey told police that she had lost custody of her daughter in 2018, in part due to substance abuse issues, and that the child was now in Montgomery’s care. Sorey said that Montgomery had blocked her number and that she had been unable to find her daughter. Police went to addresses on file with the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families but were unable to find either Montgomery or his daughter, according to court records.
Then in late December, the New Hampshire child protection agency told police it had also failed to locate the girl, prompting an extensive search for Montgomery.
In an interview with police on Dec. 30, Montgomery’s uncle, Kevin Montgomery, told authorities he hadn’t seen Adam Montgomery or Harmony since 2019 but had observed Harmony suffer various abuses at the hands of her father, including hard spankings, being forced to stand in a corner for hours, and being ordered to clean a toilet with her toothbrush.
Police also wrote that Kevin Montgomery notified New Hampshire’s child protection agency in late 2019 after Adam Montgomery admitted hitting the child in the face with such force that it left her with a black eye. Kevin Montgomery said his nephew told him “I bashed her around this house,” according to police.
Adam Montgomery’s younger brother, identified in court records as Michael Montgomery, also expressed concern for Harmony’s well-being, telling police that the last time he saw Harmony with her father, he seemed “super short” with the child.
On New Year’s Eve, police found Adam Montgomery sleeping in a car on Harvell Street in Manchester along with his girlfriend, according to the police affidavit.
Montgomery told police that the last time he saw his daughter was Thanksgiving 2019, when he was with Sorey in Lowell. When investigators said that Sorey insisted Harmony was with him at that time, Montgomery refused to answer. “I have nothing else to say,” he said, according to police.
It remains unclear how Montgomery was deemed a suitable guardian for the child in the first place.
Nicknamed “Ace,” with tattoos climbing up his neck and onto his face, Montgomery had a long history with the New Hampshire court system. As recently as last year, he was prosecuted in Manchester for stalking his estranged wife and her three children and resisting arrest, among other charges. He was given a one-year sentence that was suspended for two years and was ordered to undergo mental health counseling, records show.
His most serious offense came in 2014, just six months before Harmony was born.
On Jan. 24 of that year, officers arrived at the corner of 8th Avenue and Cedar Street in Haverhill, Mass., to discover that 28-year-old Robert Jacobs had been shot in the face, court records show. Jacobs later told police that Montgomery had showed up under the auspices of buying three grams of heroin, records show. But when Jacobs produced the drugs, Montgomery pulled a gun and attempted to rob him, he said.
“I went to grab it and it went off,” Jacobs told police.
The US Marshals Service eventually tracked Montgomery to his grandmother’s home in Manchester, where he was found with a bullet wound in his right arm, according to court records. He was charged in Massachusetts with armed robbery, armed assault to murder, carrying a firearm without a license, and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building.
Montgomery was given an 18-month suspended sentence to be served concurrently with an unrelated criminal case, records show.
Sorey, who was four months pregnant, was charged with helping Montgomery evade police after the shooting; the charges against her were later dropped.
As authorities continue to search for the 7-year-old, Sorey’s brother expressed relief that Montgomery had been arrested, but criticized the decision to give him custody of Harmony to begin with.
“It just rings of lack of professionalism, care, compassion for a young child — that’s the part that sickens me the most,” said Timothy Flanagan Jr., who lives in Florida.
“I think the State of Massachusetts and the State of New Hampshire both failed at their job,” he added. “And unfortunately, the kid has to suffer those consequences.”
Authorities have announced a $43,000 reward for anyone providing information that leads to finding the child.
Blair Miller, who with his husband adopted Harmony’s brother, Jamison, in 2019, told the Globe the couple has since remained in contact with Sorey and have been following the search for Harmony closely.
“Every moment, ever since Friday when Harmony’s mom called us, our only focus is: do what it takes for Harmony to come home,” said Miller, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area.
“Someone out there knows something, and as the reward goes up, I just pray that someone says, ‘You know what, I do know something,’ ” he said.
Laura Crimaldi and Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.