MANCHESTER, N.H. — Kayla Montgomery took the stand Friday morning to testify as the state’s star witness against her estranged husband, Adam Montgomery, who’s accused of fatally beating his 5-year-old daughter, Harmony, then hiding her body.
Her voice cracked with emotion as she recalled how she saw him conceal the girl’s approximately 35-pound body rather than call 911 when they realized on Dec. 7, 2019, that Harmony had died in the back seat of the car where the family of five was living after an eviction.
“He, like, folded her in half and put her in the duffel bag,” she said.
Kayla, 33, testified that Adam, 34, had repeatedly and forcefully beaten Harmony after the girl soiled herself amid the chaos of their housing instability. She said the couple went to a methadone clinic then a Burger King before buying heroin and crack cocaine that they used to get high the day Harmony died.
She said she tried to stop Adam from beating Harmony, but he gave her a piercing look that placed her in fear for her own safety and that of her two younger sons.
“I was scared,” she said, repeatedly.
Under questioning from prosecutors, Kayla recounted in harrowing detail Adam’s multiple efforts to conceal Harmony’s body. He first hid the bag containing the corpse in a snowbank by dumpsters adjacent to a friend’s apartment. He then stored it in a small cooler that in a shared hallway outside an extended family member’s home, where the Montgomerys stayed for a few weeks before moving into the Families in Transition shelter.
Once in the shelter, Kayla said Adam hid Harmony’s body in the ceiling vent of the room where the family stayed for about a month and a half.
Prosecutors told jurors that investigators found residue of Harmony’s remains and Adam’s fingerprints and palm prints in the room where the Montgomerys had stayed at the shelter. And they allege Adam later hid the remains in a walk-in freezer at the Portland Pie Company, a pizza shop where he worked for about a month.
Kayla testified that Adam directed her to bring the bag from the shelter to the pizza shop, and she complied, using a stroller to walk about 15 minutes with her two boys and the bag containing the body.
Later, after the family moved into an apartment of their own on Union Street in Manchester, Kayla said Adam stored Harmony’s body in their refrigerator and talked about using a hand saw and other methods to dispose of it.
“He said that he wanted to get rid of her body soon because he was scared that if anything ever happened, he was scared of what would happen to him, and me, and the kids,” she said.
Kayla said Adam eventually disposed of Harmony’s body but never told her where. He had grown suspicious, she said, that she might be working with authorities, and he had been abusing her, including by frequently beating her.
Adam Montgomery’s defense attorneys have conceded that he falsified physical evidence and abused his daughter’s corpse, but they contest the other charges against him, including the allegation that he caused the girl’s death. Instead, during opening remarks on Thursday they argued Kayla is an unreliable accuser who struck a deal with prosecutors and has a history of dishonesty.
“Only she knows the truth,” public defender James T. Brooks told the jury on Thursday. “And only she has benefited from all the lies she has told.”
Kayla acknowledged Friday morning that she has been held at the women’s correctional facility in Concord for more than a year. She’s been convicted of perjury for lying to a grand jury about her whereabouts in the days leading up to Harmony’s death. She said she was scared and initially stuck to the story Adam had told her to tell authorities.
Prosecutors questioned Kayla all morning, then the defense team began their cross-examination Friday afternoon.
Public defender Caroline L. Smith asked Kayla about a note she wrote while incarcerated. The note expressed Kayla’s desire to be with her husband one last time, and it described her actions toward him as a betrayal. Smith suggested the note casts doubt on Kayla’s claims that she lived in severe fear of him.
After about two hours, as Kayla said she was suffering from a migraine, the judge agreed to break for the weekend.
The state’s case includes a list of nearly 200 anticipated witnesses, including six experts and 75 law enforcement officers from local and federal agencies. The trial is scheduled to proceed daily in the Hillsborough Superior Court Northern District and could take weeks.
The jury heard from Harmony’s mother, Crystal R. Sorey, on Thursday. Sorey, who lost custody of Harmony as she struggled with substance abuse, spent years raising an alarm about her missing daughter.
Adam Montgomery appeared in court in person on Tuesday, the first day of jury selection, but he declined to attend his own trial on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.