Advertisement

Wife of Harmony Montgomery’s father arrested for collecting welfare benefits for missing seven-year-old

The wife of a man charged over the 2019 disappearance of his seven-year-old daughter has now been arrested and accused of fraudulently collecting welfare benefits for the missing child, despite claiming to have not seen her alive for more than two years.

Kayla Montgomery, 31, was arrested on Wednesday in New Hampshire on one felony charge of welfare fraud, just one day after her husband Adam Montgomery was arrested and charged with assaulting his missing daughter Harmony Montgomery back in 2019.

Ms Montgomery is accused of fraudulently obtaining $1,500 in food stamp benefits meant for Harmony between December 2019 and June 2021, according to a statement from New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella’s office on Thursday.

The 31-year-old, who is not Harmony’s biological mother but has three other children with her spouse, allegedly failed to remove Harmony from the family account with New Hampshire’s DHHS Division of Family Assistance and was “continuing to collect food stamp benefits for Harmony, despite the fact that Harmony was no longer living with Kayla and Kayla’s husband Adam Montgomery”.

Ms Montgomery is scheduled to be arraigned at 11am on Thursday morning at Hillsborough County Superior Court North.

Her arrest marks the latest development in the shocking case of the missing girl who has not been seen for more than two years – but was only reported missing on New Year’s Eve.

Harmony’s biological mother Crystal Sorey, who lives in Massachusetts, contacted Manchester police on 18 November saying she hadn’t seen her daughter in six months.

She said her daughter had been living in the custody of her father Mr Montgomery since 2019, in part because she had suffered from substance abuse.

Ms Sorey later told investigators it was actually Easter 2019 when she last heard from Harmony when they spoke on a video call.

Since then, she said she had repeatedly tried to make contact with her daughter but both Mr and Mrs Montgomery blocked all contact with her, according to a criminal complaint for Mr Montomgery.

On 27 December, the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) reported that it was also unable to locate Harmony and a search was launched.

The two people now charged in connection to the case have given conflicting accounts of Harmony’s last known whereabouts.

Kayla Montgomery is pictured in her mugshot following her arrest on Wednesday (Manchester NH Police)
Kayla Montgomery is pictured in her mugshot following her arrest on Wednesday (Manchester NH Police)

Investigators said they tracked down Mr Montgomery to where he was sleeping in his car with his new girlfriend.

He claimed that he last saw his daughter around Thanksgiving 2019, claiming that Ms Sorey had picked her up to take her to live with her.

The criminal complaint says that Mr Montgomery claimed to believe his daughter was living with his ex and did “not show much emotion or reaction” when officers said they were concerned whether Harmony was alive.

He then stopped answering questions from police officers, prosecutors said.

His story was also contradicted by Ms Montgomery’s account, who said she last saw Harmony in November or December 2019 when her husband said he was driving her to see Ms Sorey.

She said Harmony was not seen or spoken of since, according to prosecutors.

She said she had not seen Mr Montgomery since November 2021 when he first moved to a sober house and then began seeing another woman.

Ms Sorey has insisted she did not take custody of Harmony or see her after the April 2019 video call, police said.

Police have since determined the last confirmed sighting of Harmony was in October 2019, when officers saw the then 5-year-old at a home in Manchester, New Hampshire, when they responded to a service call at the property.

Adam Montgomery was arrested and charged with assaulting his daughter in 2019 (Manchester NH Police)
Adam Montgomery was arrested and charged with assaulting his daughter in 2019 (Manchester NH Police)

Police interviews with other family members have 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.

Mr Montgomery’s brother Michael Montgomery told investigators he “had concerns that Adam was physically abusive” to the child and was “super short” with her.

Mr Montgomery’s uncle Kevin Montgomery said he noticed Harmony had a black eye in July 2019, which his nephew confessed to causing by hitting her in the face, according to the criminal complaint.

“I bashed her around this house,” he said his nephew told him.

He said he contacted DCYF that time and had also noticed Mr Montgomery subject Harmony to other forms of “abusive discipline” including scrubbing a toilet with her toothbrush and her being “spanked hard on the butt”.

Kevin said he has not seen Harmony or his nephew since late 2019 when she was five.

Mr Montgomery was arrested on Tuesday and charged in connection to her disappearance.

He was charged with second-degree felony assault, two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and one misdemeanor count of interference with custody.

On the assault charge, Mr Montgomery is accused of “striking [Harmony] in the face” sometime in July 2019, giving her a black eye, according to the criminal complaint.

He waived his arraignment on Wednesday and was ordered to be held without bail with a judge ruling that he would “endanger the safety of the defendant or of the public” if freed.

He has been ordered to have no contact with Ms Sorey or Ms Montgomery.

Manchester Police Chief Allen Aldenberg insisted on Monday that the investigation is currently in “rescue” mode on the basis that Harmony is “alive and well”.

“That’s how we’ll operate until someone convinces me otherwise,” he said in a press briefing.

Investigators are appealing to the public for help in locating the missing child and are offering a $43,000 reward for information about her whereabouts.