MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire man accused of killing his 5-year-old daughter told a judge Wednesday that his attorneys plan to acknowledge his guilt on two lesser charges — falsifying physical evidence and abusing a corpse.
On the first day of his trial, Adam Montgomery told Judge Amy Messer via teleconference that his attorneys planned to address those particular charges in their opening statements on Thursday.
The most serious charge faced by Montgomery is second-degree murder. He is also accused of assault and witness tampering.
His daughter Harmony disappeared in 2019 but police didn’t know she was missing until two years later. Her body has never been found.
The jury was excused before the teleconference call. The judge asked Montgomery if he understood that by admitting the two charges, the jury would likely find him guilty on those counts. He said he did understand.
Attorneys earlier told jurors they would spend much of the first afternoon on a bus tour, visiting places of interest in the trial. Those included a methadone clinic, a Burger King and two apartment complexes.
The jury of 12 people and five alternates was seated for the trial of the 34-year-old in Manchester on Wednesday morning. Messer told the pool of prospective jurors that Montgomery had a right to appear at his trial, but he also had a right not to. He declined to attend in person.
“You are not to speculate on why he is not here today” nor draw any inferences, she said.
Montgomery pleaded not guilty to the five charges in 2022. The trial is expected to last about three weeks. He’s been incarcerated since 2022.
“I did not kill my daughter Harmony and I look forward to my upcoming trial to refute those offensive claims,” Montgomery said in court last August before he was sentenced on unrelated gun charges.
He acknowledged he was an addict: “I could have had a meaningful life, but I blew that opportunity through drugs. I loved my daughter unconditionally and I did not kill her.”
The case of Harmony Montgomery, who was born in Massachusetts to unmarried parents with a history of substance abuse, exposed weaknesses in child protection systems and provoked calls to prioritize the well-being of children over parents in custody matters. Harmony was moved between the homes of her mother and her foster parents multiple times before Adam Montgomery received custody in 2019 and moved to New Hampshire.
A key prosecution witness is expected to be Adam’s estranged wife, Kayla Montgomery, who is serving an 18-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to perjury charges. She agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
According to an affidavit, Kayla Montgomery told police that her husband killed Harmony on Dec. 7, 2019, while the family lived in their car. Kayla, who was Harmony’s stepmother, said Adam was driving to a fast food restaurant when he turned around and repeatedly punched Harmony in the face and head because he was angry that she was having bathroom accidents in the car.
“I think I really hurt her this time. I think I did something,” he said, according to Kayla.
The couple noticed Harmony was dead hours later when the car broke down, at which time Adam put her body in a duffel bag, Kayla said.
For the next three months, investigators allege, Adam moved the body from container to container and place to place. According to his wife, the locations included the trunk of a friend’s car, a cooler in the hallway of his mother-in-law’s apartment building, the ceiling vent of a homeless shelter and an apartment freezer.
At one point, the remains were kept in a tote bag from a hospital maternity ward, and Kayla said she placed it in between her own young children in a stroller and brought it to her husband’s workplace.
Investigators allege that Adam Montgomery disposed of the body in March 2020 using a rented moving truck. Toll data shows the truck in question crossed the Tobin Bridge in Boston multiple times, but the affidavit has no other location information to indicate the location of Harmony’s body. Last year, police searched a marshy area in Revere, Massachusetts.