In the first few years of Harmony Montgomery’s life, she was bounced around in an effort to find her a stable environment: foster care, her mother’s home and, finally, her father’s custody.
Amid criticism of his state’s handling of the case, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) criticized the Massachusetts court system Tuesday for granting custody to Adam Montgomery. In a letter to Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, Sununu demanded to know why a judge had sent Harmony to live in Manchester with a man who had a violent criminal history.
“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,” Sununu wrote in the letter, posted on his office’s website. “This family was troubled, transient and originally engaged with the Massachusetts child protection system.”
The two states initially appeared to be working together on Harmony’s case, Sununu said. In December 2018, he wrote, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families asked New Hampshire’s child welfare agency to carry out a home study of Adam and Kayla Montgomery. The New Hampshire agency responded that it needed more facts about the case.
Before that information arrived, Sununu said, a judge in Lawrence, Mass., handed over Harmony to her father in February 2019. Waiting for New Hampshire officials to conduct a home study, he said, probably would have kept Harmony out of Adam Montgomery’s care and created more oversight in the case.
“The result,” Sununu wrote, “would likely have been very different for Harmony.”
In response to the letter, Massachusetts court system spokeswoman Jennifer Donahue said her state’s Office of the Child Advocate was investigating Harmony’s disappearance. “The Massachusetts Trial Court is cooperating fully with that investigation and will cooperate with other investigations as authorized by law,” she said in a statement.
The office of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) did not respond to a request for comment. But at a news conference Wednesday, Baker said he would wait for the state investigation to play out before concluding whether the court decided wrongly in the custody case.
“I felt his pain in that letter — I did,” Baker said of Sununu, according to NBC Boston. “I do share his concerns.”
New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families has launched its own internal review of Harmony’s disappearance as it faces questions about how much has changed since a 2017 investigation by the Concord Monitor found that the agency was leaving children in abusive and dangerous homes. Sununu has repeatedly sought to highlight changes that his administration has made to reduce child welfare workers’ case loads since he took office in 2017.
Timothy Flanagan Jr., whose sister Crystal Sorey is Harmony’s mother, blames both states for losing track of his niece. He said Sorey talked with Harmony through video calls after Adam Montgomery got custody of the girl. When Montgomery broke off contact, Flanagan said Sorey repeatedly called child welfare workers and police but was ignored.
The result, he said, was that Harmony’s home life was plagued by drug and alcohol abuse, among other problems.
“Massachusetts failed Harmony by letting her go to New Hampshire,” Flanagan, 44, said Wednesday. “New Hampshire failed Harmony by letting her live in a home like that and just ignoring it.”
Manchester Police Chief Allen Aldenberg told reporters Jan. 12 that he stood behind his officers’ work in the case. Department spokeswoman Heather Hamel said Thursday that the first phone call the force has a record of receiving from Harmony’s mother since her disappearance was last November.
New Hampshire’s Division for Children, Youth and Families has declined to comment on the case.
Mike Lewis, a New Hampshire-based attorney who litigates cases involving children’s civil rights, said that office did not have to abandon Harmony’s case after Montgomery won custody. New Hampshire’s child welfare workers still could have conducted the requested home visit and raised any concerns with the Massachusetts court, he said.
“What about the decision of the Massachusetts court prevents New Hampshire from continuing to ask questions and litigate around issues involving the safety of this girl if the father was so manifestly unfit and dangerous, as the governor says?” Lewis asked.
A reward of $137,000 was offered as of Wednesday for information about Harmony’s disappearance. Police are accepting tips via calls or text messages at 603-203-6060.
Last week, Aldenberg said he was discouraged that Harmony had not been found. But he added that he would continue to hope for the best in the case.
“Until somebody tells me otherwise or shows me something concrete that says that she’s not,” he said, “then this investigation is geared toward Harmony is still alive.”
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.