MANCHESTER, N.H. — The estranged wife of Adam Montgomery, who is charged with fatally beating his 5-year-old daughter Harmony to death in December 2019, returned to the witness stand Monday for cross-examination.
Montgomery’s lawyer, Caroline L. Smith, questioned Kayla Montgomery about her interviews with law enforcement, her past lies, and the timeline of events on the day Harmony died.
In so doing, Smith alluded to the defense team’s contention that Harmony had actually died hours earlier than prosecutors contend. In his opening statement last week, James T. Brooks, another public defender who is representing Montgomery, suggested Kayla Montgomery knows more than she’s letting on.
But Kayla Montgomery reiterated her position Monday that her inaction in the face of her husband’s abuse was motivated by fear, although she urged him to quit hitting Harmony each time the girl soiled herself in their car.
”I tried telling him to stop, but he doesn’t listen,” she said.
Adam Montgomery, 34, wasn’t in the courtroom Monday. After attending the first day of jury selection, he has declined to be present outside of a brief appearance by video.
On Friday, Kayla Montgomery, 33, took the stand to testify against her husband as the state’s leading witness.
Her voice cracked with emotion as she recounted how she saw him conceal his daughter’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 testified that Adam had repeatedly and forcefully beaten Harmony after the girl soiled herself. She said the couple went to a methadone clinic, then a Burger King, before buying heroin and crack cocaine that they used on the day Harmony died.
She said she tried to stop Adam from beating Harmony, but he gave her a piercing look that made her fear for her safety and the safety 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 in a shared hallway outside the home of an extended family member, where the Montgomerys stayed for a few weeks before moving into a shelter.
There, Adam hid Harmony’s body in a ceiling vent, Kayla testified.
Prosecutors told jurors that investigators found residue of Harmony’s remains and Adam’s fingerprints and palm prints in the room at the shelter where the Montgomerys stayed. They allege Adam later hid the remains in a walk-in freezer at a pizza shop where he worked for about a month.
Kayla said Adam eventually disposed of Harmony’s body but never told her where. He had grown suspicious that she might be working with authorities, she said.
He would hit her when she denied his accusations, so she tried falsely telling him she had been cooperating with police. She hoped that would halt the beatings. “And he still kept hitting me anyway,” she said, tears streaming down her face.
Lawyers for Adam Montgomery have conceded that he falsified physical evidence and abused his daughter’s corpse but contest that he caused the girl’s death. On Thursday, they portrayed Kayla as an unreliable accuser who struck a deal with prosecutors and has a history of dishonesty.
On Friday, Kayla acknowledged that she has been held at the women’s correctional facility in Concord for more than a year. She was 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.
Under cross-examination, 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 described her actions toward him as a betrayal. Smith suggested the note casts doubt on Kayla’s claims that she lived in extreme fear of him.
Smith lingered Monday on questions about Kayla’s desire to salvage her marriage despite all the horrendous things she said she saw Adam do, but Kayla testified that her feelings and desire to “fix” her family are complicated.
Prosecutor R. Christopher Knowles asked Kayla whether she still loves Adam.
“I still care about him because he’s the father of my children,” she replied, crying harder. “He was my best friend. It’s been hard for me to just let go.”
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 also 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 alarms about her missing daughter.
Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.