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The New Hampshire governor has hit out at Massachusetts officials over the disappearance of Harmony Montgomery after she was placed in the custody of her father just months before she was last seen more than two years ago.
Governor Chris Sununu sent a letter to Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Kimberly S Budd on Tuesday demanding to know why a Massachusetts judge granted “monstrous drug dealer” Adam Montgomery custody of his daughter.
The governor went as far as to claim that “the result would likely have been very different for Harmony” if the court had acted differently.
A Massachusetts judge awarded Mr Montgomery custody of Harmony back in February 2019, after her mother Crystal Sorey lost custody due to substance abuse the previous year.
Ms Sorey lives in Massachusetts while Mr Montgomery lives in New Hampshire and so the change in custody saw Harmony sent to live with her father in the latter state.
In December 2021, a missing persons investigation was opened for the little girl, now seven, after Ms Sorey said Mr Montgomery had severed all contact and she had not seen her since a video call in April 2019.
Investigators have since learned that the last known sighting of the girl was in October or November 2019, when she was five.
Mr Montgomery, an ex-convict with a history of violence, has been arrested and charged with child assault in connection to his missing daughter.
Investigators said he is refusing to say where Harmony is. Three weeks into the police investigation, her whereabouts are still unknown.
Harmony was known to the child welfare agencies in both states and questions are mounting over how she managed to slip through the cracks of the system and vanish for more than two years without alarm bells ringing.
Governor Sununu blasted the Massachusetts court system for allowing the little girl to leave the state “in the custody of a dangerous criminal”.
“Harmony’s father Adam Montgomery is a monstrous drug dealer with previous convictions including shooting someone in the head and a separate armed attack on two women in Massachusetts,” he wrote in the letter.
“No child should ever leave Massachusetts in the custody of a dangerous criminal.”
The governor said that the Massachusetts child welfare agency asked its New Hampshire counterpart to carry out a home study of Mr Montgomery and his wife Kayla Montgomery in 2018 as part of the process to grant custody of the little girl and transfer Harmony’s case to the state.
He said that the New Hampshire agency was “waiting for the necessary information” about the Montgomerys from Massachusetts officials when a judge went ahead and approved custody before the home study could be carried out.
“Why would the Massachusetts court choose to place custody of Harmony with this horrible individual?” he asked.
Governor Sununu wrote that he believes the home study “likely would have proven that Adam Montgomery was unfit” and that, as a result, Harmony would not have been placed in his care.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker responded to Governor Sununu’s letter, telling reporters on Wednesday that he “felt his pain”.
“I totally get where Governor Sununu is coming from, and we are cooperating to the fullest extent possible that can with the Office of the Child Advocate here in Massachusetts, which is an independent entity that is reviewing this case and has the ability to access the data that’s necessary to figure out exactly what happened,” he said.
Investigations are now underway in the two Republican-led states into their handling of Harmony’s case and whether the system failed the little girl.
Governor Sununu announced on 12 January that the child welfare agency is carrying out an internal review of its handling of Harmony’s case.
Meanwhile an independent investigation is also being carried out by the Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate in that state.
Family members of Harmony said they raised concerns multiple times to child welfare for Harmony’s safety while living with her father in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Mr Montgomery was arrested on 4 January and charged with second-degree felony assault, two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and one misdemeanor count of interference with custody in relation to his missing daughter.
On the assault charge, he is accused of “striking [Harmony] in the face” sometime in July 2019, giving her a black eye, according to the criminal complaint.
Police interviews with other family members revealed Mr Montgomery was allegedly abusive toward his daughter, including giving her a black eye, forcing her to clean the toilet with her own toothbrush and making her stand in a corner for hours as a punishment.
Officials said Mr Montgomery is not cooperating with the investigation into his daughter’s disappearance and has refused to say where she is.
The day after his arrest, his wife was arrested on one felony charge of welfare fraud for allegedly fraudulently collecting welfare benefits for the missing child between December 2019 and June 2021.
Ms Montgomery, who has three children with her husband, is accused of fraudulently obtaining $1,500 in food stamp benefits meant for Harmony between December 2019 and June 2021 even though the girl was not living with them.
Prosecutors have now dropped that welfare fraud charge and added three new charges - one count of theft by deception and two misdemeanor charges of welfare fraud.
The charges accuse Ms Montgomery of making intentional false statements about her stepdaughter’s whereabouts in February and March 2021 in order to claim benefits.
Mr Montgomery has a history of violence and a long criminal record including convictions for shooting a man in the head in a drug deal just six months before Harmony was born.
He was also convicted in 2010 for attacking two women at gunpoint.
It has also emerged that Mr Montgomery is a suspect in the cold case murder of a 28-year-old man in Lynn, New Hampshire, back in February 2008.
Darlin Guzman was found shot in the chest in the parking lot of the former White Hen Convenience store in Lynn’s Austin Square on the night of 10 February 2008. He was pronounced dead in hospital.
A law enforcement source told Boston 25 News that Mr Montgomery, who was 18 at the time, and two members of his family, who were not named, have been the focus of the murder investigation since day one.
The three family members had been in contact with the victim earlier that day and planned to meet with him at the convenience store, before the meeting culminated in gunfire, according to the source.
The victim’s car was later found abandoned in the direction of Bedford, New Hampshire, where Mr Montgomery lived at the time.
No one has ever been charged with the Mr Guzman’s murder but the source said Mr Montgomery remains the focus of the investigation to this day.
Almost 14 years on from that killing, Mr Montgomery and his wife are now charged on counts related to his missing daughter.
However, while charged with serious offences including child abuse and welfare fraud, no charges have been brought against anyone directly in connection to Harmony’s disappearance.
Anyone with information about Harmony’s disappearance is asked to call or text 603-203-606