By KATHY McCORMACK Associated Press
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A plea offer and a counter offer were recently discussed for the stepmother of a missing New Hampshire girl, who is accused of lying to authorities that the child was living with her in order to collect food stamp benefits, attorneys said in court Thursday.
Kayla Montgomery was not in Hillsborough Superior Court in Manchester as a prosecutor discussed information being shared in the ongoing search for the child, Harmony Montgomery, who disappeared in 2019 at age 5.
“The state has made a plea offer. It was communicated relatively recently,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Jesse O’Neill told a judge. No details were given.
“Obviously, part of the defendant’s charge has to do with untruthfulness regarding whether or not the child was in the household, so while the investigation into the whereabouts of the child is ongoing, the state considers that relevant discovery to give to the defendant in terms of anything learned about the whereabouts of the missing child,” O’Neill said.
He said discovery in the case — the process of exchanging information between the parties about the witnesses and evidence they will present at trial — has been very lengthy, and is nearly complete.
Montgomery’s attorney, Paul Garrity, said he’s discussed the plea offer with Kayla Montgomery. He said “a counter — to some extent — was made to the state.”
Garrity asked to schedule another hearing “to give us additional time to further our discussions” and review the prosecution’s information.
A hearing was scheduled for June 9.
Authorities say Harmony Montgomery vanished sometime in late November or early December of 2019 — but authorities didn’t know she was missing until last fall.
Kayla Montgomery, 31, has been in jail since January and was indicted last month on a felony charge of theft by deception. She allegedly told state Health Department workers that Harmony was a member of her household from November 2019 to June 2, 2021, and that she received food stamp benefits for Harmony. She’s pleaded not guilty.
Harmony’s father, Adam Montgomery, who had custody of his daughter, also has been in jail since January on a charge of second-degree assault, alleging that he struck Harmony in the face in July 2019. He’s pleaded not guilty to that and to two misdemeanor charges of interference with custody and endangering the welfare of a child. He recently was arrested on unrelated firearms theft charges stemming from 2019.
Kayla and Adam Montgomery are estranged. Both told police that Harmony was brought to her mother in Massachusetts around Thanksgiving 2019. Her mother said she last saw her daughter during a phone video conversation about Easter that year.
The search for Harmony remains active. The Manchester Police Department’s 24-hour tip line on the case is (603) 203-6060 and there is a reward fund of at least $150,000.