Harmony Montgomery has not been seen since around October 2019 but authorities only started searching for her in December 2021. Two weeks on, questions are mounting around how a seven-year-old child could suddenly vanish and fall through the cracks, writes Rachel Sharp
It’s been two weeks since the name Harmony Montgomery first hit headlines across the US when a missing persons investigation was launched to find the seven-year-old girl.
Since then, her father and stepmother have both been arrested and charged.
A home where she used to live in Manchester, New Hampshire, has been searched for days on end.
And a reward for information leading to her discovery has topped $100,000.
But, despite the national attention and the painstaking efforts to find the missing child, who is blind in one eye, investigators appear to have made little headway.
As of 14 January, no one has been directly charged with Harmony’s disappearance, the home search has come to an end and Harmony’s whereabouts remain unknown.
In a press conference, Manchester Police Chief Allen Aldenberg admitted he was a “little discouraged”.
Though concerning, the lack of progress is perhaps unsurprising as whoever has information about what happened to the little girl has had a more than two-year head start on investigators.
Manchester Police said Harmony has not been seen since around October or November 2019 when she was five years old. Yet, a missing persons investigation was only launched in December 2021.
When was Harmony Montgomery last seen?
The last confirmed sighting of Harmony by law enforcement was on 11 September 2019 when Manchester police officers were called to the home on 77 Gilford Street in Manchester where she lived.
Harmony was living with her father Adam Montgomery, who had been given custody of his daughter in February 2019, as well as his wife Kayla Montgomery and their children at the property at the time.
The little girl had been in and out of foster care for much of her life.
Then, in 2018, her mother Crystal Sorey lost custody of her due in part to substance abuse.
Chief Aldenberg previously said the last police callout to the property was in October 2019 but confirmed he had muddled the dates in a press briefing on 12 January.
Despite the date change, the police chief said investigators are still working to the belief that Harmony was last seen in October or November of that year.
This timeline appears to be based on police interviews and statements from various family members.
Ms Sorey told police she had not been able to contact her since they spoke on a video call in April 2019. After that, she said Mr Montgomery cut off all contact between her and her daughter.
Mr Montgomery claimed to investigators he last saw his daughter around Thanksgiving 2019, claiming that Ms Sorey had picked her up from Manchester to take her to live with her.
The criminal complaint says that Mr Montgomery claimed to believe his daughter was living with his ex and did “not show much emotion or reaction” when officers said they were concerned whether Harmony was alive when they contacted him in December.
His story was also contradicted by Ms Montgomery’s account, who said she last saw Harmony the day after Thanksgiving when her husband said he was driving her to see Ms Sorey.
Mr Montgomery’s uncle Kevin Montgomery told investigators he has not seen Harmony or his nephew since late 2019 when she was five years old.
Who has been charged?
Harmony’s father and his wife were both arrested and charged on counts related to the missing child in early January.
Mr Montgomery was arrested on 4 January and charged with second-degree felony assault, two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and one misdemeanor count of interference with custody.
On the assault charge, he is accused of “striking [Harmony] in the face” sometime in July 2019, giving her a black eye, according to the criminal complaint.
Police interviews with other family members revealed Mr Montgomery was allegedly abusive toward his daughter, including giving her a black eye, forcing her to clean the toilet with her own toothbrush and making her stand in a corner for hours as a punishment.
Mr Montgomery’s brother Michael Montgomery told investigators he “had concerns that Adam was physically abusive” to the child and was “super short” with her.
Kevin Montgomery said he noticed Harmony had a black eye in July 2019, which his nephew confessed to causing by hitting her in the face, according to the criminal complaint.
“I bashed her around this house,” he said his nephew told him.
Kevin said he contacted DCYF that time and had also noticed Mr Montgomery subject Harmony to other forms of “abusive discipline” including scrubbing a toilet with her toothbrush and her being “spanked hard on the butt”.
Mr Montgomery has a history of violence and a long criminal record including convictions for shooting a man in the head in a drug deal just six months before Harmony was born.
He was also convicted in 2010 for attacking two women at gunpoint.
Officials said Mr Montgomery is not cooperating with the investigation and refused to say where his daughter is.
The day after her husband’s arrest, Ms Montgomery was arrested on one felony charge of welfare fraud for allegedly fraudulently collecting welfare benefits for the missing child between December 2019 and June 2021.
Ms Montgomery, who has three children with her husband, is accused of fraudulently obtaining $1,500 in food stamp benefits meant for Harmony between December 2019 and June 2021 even though the girl was not living with them.
Prosecutors have now dropped that welfare fraud charge and added three new charges – one count of theft by deception and two misdemeanor charges of welfare fraud.
The charges accuse Ms Montgomery of making intentional false statements about her stepdaughter’s whereabouts in February and March 2021 in order to claim benefits.
While the couple has been charged on counts related to Harmony, no charges have been brought against anyone directly in connection to her disappearance.
Why was she not reported missing for two years?
Questions have been mounting over how a little girl could not be seen for more than two years without any action being taken by authorities.
Multiple family members have said they raised concerns for Harmony’s safety with New Hampshire’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) over the last two years.
Ms Sorey has accused the authorities of “failing” her daughter. She said she made multiple attempts to report concerns to child services.
On November 18 she contacted Manchester Police saying she believed her daughter was missing.
Police officers contacted the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) about the location of the missing child. Then, on 27 December, the DCYF reported that it was also unable to locate Harmony.
Manchester Police announced a search was launched on 31 December.
Emails emerged this week, sent by Ms Sorey to the Manchester mayor’s office, begging for help in finding her daughter.
“Please, I’m begging for help in finding my daughter,” she wrote on 29 December.
Ms Sorey said Mr Montgomery had never enrolled their daughter in school and that she has missed “important doctor’s appointments she’s had since a baby due to a disability in her eye”.
The emails were sent just two days before police finally reported Harmony missing.
As well as the repeated attempts to raise the alarm, the family was well-known to child services.
Newly-released records, released on 12 January, have emerged showing that police officers were called to the Gilford Street home at least 10 times between February 2019 – when Mr Montgomery got custody of Harmony – and when she was last seen in the fall.
Reports ranged from claims of domestic disturbances to animal welfare and concerns about the living conditions in the home.
The DCYF was notified about some of the incidents.
A neighbour told The Independent that it was a “bad situation” at the property, describing lots of people living there at different times, adults seen arguing in the street, junk left piled up in the yard, and the electricity being switched off at one point.
“We didn’t intermingle with them as it was a bad situation,” she said.
“There was lots of different people living there, piles of junk in the driveway, junk outside.
“The electricity was turned off and they ran the generator all summer with the wiring running through the window.”
The neighbour said the Montgomerys were “basically squatting” at the home when it had fallen into foreclosure and Mr and Ms Montgomery were refusing to leave.
She said she went away for the Thanksgiving holidays in 2019 and returned to find the family had finally packed up and moved out.
This coincides with when Mr and Ms Montgomery claim they last saw the little girl.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu announced on 12 January that the DCYF is carrying out an internal review of its handling of Harmony’s case.
However, the governor defended the state’s work saying: “As soon as we found out that this child may not have been showing up for school for quite some time, it was reported up to us.
“The team got right on it. It wasn’t a delay. It didn’t sit in a file on somebody’s desk.”
Where is Harmony?
Investigators have revealed little detail about what they think may have happened to Harmony.
The Gilford Street property has been the focus of much of the search with investigators seen in the home and the backyard for multiple days.
However, Manchester Police said the search had concluded there. It is not clear if anything of interest was uncovered and no other locations for searches have been identified.
Around 300 tips have been received from the public so far and the reward for information about Harmony’s disappearance has topped $100,000.
Chief Aldenberg insisted on 12 January that they are still working on the belief that Harmony is alive.
However, he admitted that he was “a little discouraged” by the case so far and pleaded with the public to come forward with information.
He added: “Somebody out there knows something.”
Anyone with information is asked to call or text 603-203-606