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News / Nation & World

Mother of 5-year-old girl killed by father takes first steps in planned wrongful death lawsuit

By KATHY McCORMACK, Associated Press
Published: March 11, 2024, 9:07am

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The mother of a 5-year-old girl who was killed in 2019 and whose body has not been found, asked a probate judge on Monday to declare the girl legally dead and to be appointed as administrator of her estate.

Crystal Sorey took the first steps in preparation of a planned wrongful death lawsuit regarding her daughter, Harmony Montgomery, more than two weeks after Harmony’s father, Adam Montgomery, was convicted of fatally beating her and other crimes. She has not said whom she plans to sue.

Sorey’s lawyer told Judge Beth Kissinger in Nashua that Adam Montgomery’s second-degree murder conviction, plus his admission of guilt to lesser charges that he moved her body around for months afterward and falsified physical evidence, was enough to result in a legal death declaration.

Kissinger did not rule immediately, asking for court paperwork, including the jury’s verdict and a probate surety bond from Sorey, which would guarantee she would fulfill her duties under the law as administrator.

A Webex connection was set up at the men’s state prison in Concord for Adam Montgomery to participate in the hearing, but he refused to attend, a prison official said. Montgomery also had declined to show up at his two-week trial.

Montgomery and Sorey were not in a relationship when their daughter was born in 2014. Harmony Montgomery lived on and off with foster families and her mother until Sorey lost custody in 2018. Montgomery was awarded custody in early 2019, and Sorey testified she last saw her daughter during a FaceTime call around Easter of that year.

Sorey eventually went to police, who announced they were looking for the missing child on New Year’s Eve 2021. In early 2022, authorities searched a home in Manchester where Montgomery had lived and charged him with assault, interference with custody and child endangerment.

By that June, Montgomery also was facing numerous charges related to stolen guns, while his estranged wife, Kayla Montgomery, was charged with perjury for lying to a grand jury investigating her stepdaughter’s disappearance. She has been serving an 18-month sentence and is expected to be paroled in May.

In August 2022, Attorney General John Formella announced that investigators believed Harmony was dead and that the case was being treated as a homicide.

Harmony Montgomery’s case has exposed weaknesses in child protection systems and prompted calls to prioritize the well-being of children over parents in custody matters.