The stepmother of missing seven-year-old Harmony Montgomery has pleaded not guilty to a felony count of welfare fraud after being accused of collecting $1,500 worth of food stamps in the child’s name for a year after her disappearance.
Kayla Montgomery, 31, a mother-of-three from Manchester, New Hampshire, was arraigned in Hillsborough County Superior Court on Thursday, a day after her arrest.
On Tuesday, Montgomery’s estranged husband – and Harmony’s father – Adam Montgomery was picked up in Manchester on charges of assault for allegedly punching his daughter in the face, as well as interference with custody and endangering the welfare of a child related to his daughter’s disappearance two years ago.
During Kayla’s court hearing, a prosecutor asked the presiding judge to set her bail at $5,000, pointing out her past criminal record, including convictions on misdemeanor charges of drug possession, theft and making a false report, and arguing she is a flight risk.
Montgomery’s defense attorney asked the judge to release her on her own recognizance, stressing that she has strong ties to Manchester and three children, ages one, two and four, with whom she has been living in a shelter since July.
The judge ultimately sided with the prosecution and set Montgomery’s bail at $5,000. As of Thursday afternoon, she remained in custody at the Hillsborough County Jail, officials confirmed to DailyMail.com.
A probable cause statement obtained by DailyMail.com alleges that Kayla obtained $1,500 in food stamps from December 2019 to June 2021 for Harmony, who is not her biological daughter, even though the girl was no longer living with her and Adam during that time.
Kayla was quoted as telling police last week that she had last seen Harmony in November or December 2019, before her husband dropped her off at work.
Kayla Montgomery, 31, missing Harmony Montgomery’s stepmother, appears in Hillsborough County Superior Court in New Hampshire for her arraignment on Thursday
Montgomery pleaded not guilty to a felony count of welfare fraud for collecting $1,500 in food stamps in the name of the seven-year-old Harmony
Montgomery was arrested on Wednesday, more than two years after last seeing Harmony
Harmony Montgomery, pictured as a 5-year-old, has not been seen in two years and police are still looking for her
‘Adam said that he was driving [Harmony] back to Crystal who was living in Lowell, MA, at the time,’ the affidavit states, referring to the girl’s birth mother, Crystal Sorey. ‘Kayla claimed she never saw, or heard about [Harmony] after that day.’
Sorey has denied having Harmony in her care, telling police she has not seen her daughter in two years and has been trying to track her down.
Kayla also told police she hadn’t seen Adam since October and had not spoken to him since November.
Kayla’s husband and Harmony father, Adam Montgomery, 31, has been charged with assault, interference with custody and endangering the welfare of a chil
A ‘change report’ submitted by Kayla Montgomery for food stamps on February 25, 2019 — three days after her husband received legal custody of Harmony — said Harmony ‘is now currently living with us full-time. She is 4 years old and permanently blind in one eye, she was born like that,’ according to the police document.
As of January 2021, further food stamp paperwork indicated her household consisted of two married adults and four children, ‘three in common and all claimed as tax dependents.’ A case worker had added a note saying Kayla Montgomery ‘seemed confused about whether or not Harmony lived there because (she) goes to her mom’s every other weekend,’ according to the document.
When police pressed Kayla about receiving food stamps for Harmony for over a year after the child’s last sighting, ‘Kayla ‘acknowledged receiving those benefits knowingly,’ the affidavit stated.
The mom-of-three claimed that she had tried to remove Harmony from her New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Division of Family Assistance account but was unsuccessful.
But a Manchester police detective claimed that based on a review of case management documents, ‘Kayla did not make any request or attempt to remove [Harmony] from her household account’ until last summer.
On June 2, 2021, an account change report noted that case management for Harmony was closed, stating that ‘client said she moved back with her mother and to remove her from her case,’ the document said.
Harmony was reported missing by her biological mother in November and still has not been found.
Manchester police set up a 24-hour tip line this week and offered $60,000 in rewards in an effort to find Harmony Montgomery. They said they were working to find her with the state Division for Children, Youth and Families and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
‘An innocent child is unaccounted for and we are working tirelessly to get the answers needed to locate her,’ police said in a news release about the increased donations being offered by local businesses.
Kayla and Adam Montgomery (pictured together) have three young children together
Kayla claimed she last saw Harmony, then aged 5, before her husband, Adam Montgomery, said he was driving the child back to her mother in November 2019. Yet, the woman allegedly continued collecting food stamps in the girl’s name for more than a year
An arrest affidavit filed in Adam Montgomery’s case alleges that the father, who has a history of criminal offenses in two states and drug abuse, punched Harmony in the face and gave her a black eye in July 2021 – just six months after New Hampshire’s child protective services handed him custody of his daughter.
Montgomery’s uncle quoted Adam as telling him of the beating: ‘I bashed her around this house,’ according to the filing.
He also would allegedly spank his daughter on her buttocks, force her to stand in a corner for hours and make her scrub the toilet with her own toothbrush.
Montgomery’s uncle, Kevin Montgomery, told police he reported the 2019 assault to the Department of Children of Children Youth and Their Families (DCYF), but it is unclear whether his complaint was ever investigated by the agency. The portion of the affidavit pertaining to that incident has been redacted.
An investigation was launched only after Harmony’s mother, Crystal Sorey, called the Manchester Police Department on November 18, saying that her daughter was missing and that she had not seen her since April 2019 on a FaceTime call.
‘Crystal recalled that [Harmony] seemed frightened,’ according to the affidavit.
Harmony was described as four-feet tall and weighs 50-pounds. She has blonde hair, blue eyes and wears glasses because she is blind in her right eye
Harmony, right, pictured with her younger brother, Jamison, was reported missing only in November 2021 by her mother
Sorey explained that she had lost custody of Harmony in July 2018 because she was a drug addict, and she said that Montgomery also had struggled with substance abuse problems.
Boston 25 reported that Harmony and her younger brother, Jamison, spent their early years in foster care, but that in February 2019, DCYF placed Harmony in her father’s custody, while her brother was adopted by a TV reporter.
Records cited by the station revealed that Montgomery has a vast criminal history dating back to 2007 in New Hampshire, including charges of burglary, stalking and first-degree assault.
In Massachusetts , he was charged in 2014 with armed robbery and assault with intent to murder during a drug deal, but the charges were later downgraded.
Beginning on December 27, police in Manchester made repeated attempts to track down Montgomery and other family members to establish the last time Harmony was seen.
Three days later, a detective interviewed Montgomery’s brother, Michael Montgomery, who raised concerns about Harmony’s safety.
‘Michael recalled that Adam was “super short” with the child, and he learned through other family members that Adam had given [Harmony] a black eye,’ according to the affidavit.’
On New Year’s Eve, Montgomery’s uncle, Kevin Montgomery, told police that has not seen his nephew or Harmony since late 2019.
‘However, Kevin had first-hand knowledge of the child’s eye injury from 2019,’ the court document alleges.
The uncle told police that he returned to Manchester in July 2019 after a trip to Florida and observed Harmony with a black eye, prompting his call to DCYF.
Kevin Montgomery said that Adam told him that he had punched Harmony, saying of the incident: ‘I bashed her around this house.’
According to the uncle, Montgomery explained to him that he had left Harmony, then aged 5, in charge of her infant brother while he was in the bathroom.
Montgomery (left) is accused of punching Harmony in the face and giving her a black eye in July 2021. Multiple relatives observed the then-5-year-old with the eye injury at the time
Crystal Sorey (right) had lost custody of Harmony in 2018 because of her drug addiction
When the baby started crying, Montgomery said he came out of the bathroom to find Harmony with her hand clamped over her brother’s mouth to stop him from crying.
‘Adam told Kevin that he responded by striking [Harmony] in the face and causing the black eye,’ according to the affidavit.
The uncle told police he believed his nephew had relapsed on drugs around that time. He also recalled Harmony being spanked, forced to stand in the corner for hours, ‘and Adam ordering [her] to scrub the toilet with her toothbrush.’
On the same day, detectives interviewed Montgomery’s estranged wife, Kayla Montgomery, who recalled seeing Harmony with a black eye, but she said Adam told her that it was one of their children who had hit the girl with a toy.
Hours later, police found Montgomery sleeping with his girlfriend in a car parked near Harvell Street in Manchester.
‘During our roadside interview with Adam, he made some contradictory statements during our interaction which raised our suspicion and concern for [Harmony’s] well-being,’ police stated in the filing.
Montgomery initially told a detective that his daughter was ‘fine’ and he had seen her somewhat recently. But as the conversation progressed, the 31-year-old allegedly admitted that he had not seen Harmony since he claimed her mother came to pick her up around Thanksgiving 2019.
Detectives repeatedly pressed Montgomery on Harmony’s whereabouts, to which he was said to have replied, ‘I have nothing else to say’ and ‘If I’m not under arrest, I’m leaving.’
The 31-year-old had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf by his lawyer. He has been jailed without bail.