CONCORD, N.H. — On New Year’s Eve, Manchester Police Chief Allen D. Aldenberg stood before a news conference and announced that officers had recently learned that a young girl named Harmony Montgomery had not been seen since 2019.
On Thursday, Aldenberg and New Hampshire’s top prosecutor delivered the news that many had feared since learning of her disappearance. The 5-year-old, who wore glasses and had blond hair and blue eyes, is dead, they said, killed in Manchester in December 2019, nearly two years before she was reported missing.
“I’m beyond saddened that we stand here today to announce that the disappearance of Harmony Montgomery is now officially a homicide investigation,” Aldenberg said at a news conference. “Every effort has been made to bring Harmony home to her family. Our commitment to bringing Harmony home has not wavered nor will it.”
New Hampshire Attorney General John M. Formella, who joined Aldenberg at the news conference, said police haven’t found Harmony’s body but have “multiple sources of investigative information including just recently confirmed biological evidence” that the girl is dead.
He and Aldenberg didn’t elaborate on the circumstances of her death and on the evidence and didn’t take questions.
“We understand that this is truly devastating news for Harmony’s family, friends, and loved ones and our hearts go out to them,” Formella said.
He and Aldenberg didn’t say if they’ve identified any suspects, though the child’s father, Adam, and her stepmother, Kayla Montgomery, are being prosecuted on charges unrelated to her disappearance. They were caring for the girl when she was last seen in late 2019.
Harmony’s mother, Crystal Sorey, said on WMUR-TV that she had held out hope she would be reunited with her daughter.
“Come to find out, like, she was never even missing. You know? She’s been gone this whole time,” Sorey said.
Adam Montgomery told investigators he last saw his daughter around Thanksgiving 2019, saying that he gave her to Sorey, a claim prosecutors say is false. Sorey, who has struggled with addiction but had been living in sober housing for a period, reported Harmony missing to Manchester police in November 2021.
Sorey’s brother, Tim Flanagan Jr., said in an interview that he and other relatives have tried to prepare Sorey for the possibility that the child was dead.
”I told her from the beginning, ‘I want you to expect the worst and hope for the best,’ ” Flanagan said. “We’ve told her this isn’t good, 90-something percent of these cases don’t end well. But at the end of the day, she’s got to come to terms with it herself and move on the best she can.”
In February 2019, a Massachusetts juvenile court judge placed Harmony in the care of her father, Adam, 32, who had shown only sporadic interest in the girl. Five years earlier, Montgomery admitted to shooting a man in the head during a drug deal in Haverhill.
The juvenile court judge, Mark Newman, declined to comment on Thursday, according to a spokesperson for the state’s judiciary. The trial court “expresses its profound sadness over this tragic development,” she said.
In May, the Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate released an unsparing report that documented failures at every turn by the state’s child welfare agency and the juvenile court to safeguard Harmony’s well-being, culminating with the decision to place the girl in the care of her father.
Child welfare agencies in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, where the child was born in 2014 and lived in foster care for a time, came under scrutiny since authorities announced she was missing.
During her short life, Harmony faced dysfunction at home and failings by government agencies that became involved in her care, according to reports by officials in both states.
She came under the care of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families when she was 2 months old because child welfare workers were concerned about Sorey’s struggle with substance use disorder. Adam Montgomery was incarcerated when Harmony was born and first met her during a supervised visit at the prison when she was 6 months old, according to the child advocate’s report.
Between August 2014 and January 2018, DCF removed Harmony from Sorey’s care three times and placed her in the custody of foster parents, the report said.
Adam Montgomery has been in jail since January on charges that include felony second-degree assault against Harmony, interference with custody, and endangering the welfare of a child. He has pleaded not guilty.
His estranged wife, Kayla, has pleaded not guilty to lying to a grand jury investigating the girl’s disappearance and collecting welfare benefits after Harmony was no longer living with them.
Lawyers for Adam and Kayla Montgomery didn’t respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
In June, authorities searched a Manchester home where the couple previously lived but did not disclose details of what was seized. Law enforcement agents were seen bringing a refrigerator out of the residence, along with several other large items wrapped in brown paper. Investigators in January had searched a different Manchester address where Harmony had lived.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said the revelation that the child had been murdered confirmed “our greatest fears.”
“Our efforts shift to ensuring justice for Harmony,” Sununu said in a statement. “We have come to know Harmony through her bright smiles in her photos and she will not soon be forgotten by her fellow Granite Staters.”
A spokesman for Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker referred questions to the state Department of Children and Families, which in a statement said it is “heartbroken” and remains “deeply committed” to protecting children in state custody.
Blair Miller, who with his husband adopted Harmony’s younger brother, Jamison, in 2019, shared his family’s reaction to the confirmation of the girl’s death on Twitter.
When the couple adopted Jamison, Miller has said, they were told Harmony was with her father, who is different from Jamison’s. But the boy has an enduring bond with his older sister and has asked about her since he joined Miller’s family, he wrote. He shared a photo from Jamison’s bedroom, where the boy sleeps near a photo of him with Harmony from their time in foster care.
“Harmony, your brother will forever love you,” he wrote. “When he feels the wind, he often says, ‘That was Harmony sending me a hug.’ So when you think of the wind, think of Harmony.”
Travis Andersen of the Globe staff and correspondent Nick Stoico contributed to this report.
Laura Crimaldi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi. Dugan Arnett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.