CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The stepmother of a girl who disappeared in 2019 at age 5 has been charged with welfare fraud for collecting food stamps in her name, the New Hampshire attorney general’s office said Thursday.
Kayla Montgomery, 31, of Manchester, has been charged one with one count of welfare fraud on suspicion of obtaining $1,500 in food stamps from December 2019 to June 2021 for Harmony Montgomery, even though the girl was not living with Kayla and her husband, Adam Montgomery.
Kayla Montgomery pleaded not guilty in Hillsborough County Superior Court. Her lawyer asked that she be released on her own recognizance. The judge agreed to a prosecutor’s request for $5,000 bail, ruling that Montgomery, who has a misdemeanor criminal record, must check in daily in person with Manchester police.
Adam Montgomery, 31, was charged Wednesday with several counts, including failing to have Harmony in his custody. His lawyer entered not guilty pleas on his behalf. He has been jailed without bail.
In an interview with police on New Year’s Eve, Kayla Montgomery — who shares three children with her husband, ages 4, 2 and 1 — said she last saw Harmony in November or December 2019. She said her husband was driving Harmony to the child’s mother in Massachusetts. She said she believed Harmony had been returned to the mother and never saw or heard about Harmony after that day, according to the police document.
Kayla Montgomery also told police she hadn’t seen Adam since October and had not spoken to him since November.
A “change report” submitted by Kayla Montgomery for food stamps on Feb. 25, 2019 — three days after her husband received legal custody of Harmony — said Harmony “is now currently living with us full-time. She is 4 years old and permanently blind in one eye, she was born like that,” according to a police document.
As of January 2021, further food stamp paperwork indicated her household consisted of two married adults and four children, “three in common and all claimed as tax dependents.” A case worker had added a note saying Kayla Montgomery “seemed confused about whether or not Harmony lived there because (she) goes to her mom’s every other weekend,” according to the document.
That June, an account change report noted that case management for Harmony was closed, noting “client said she moved back with her mother and to remove her from her case,” the document said.
Manchester police set up a 24-hour tip line this week and offered $60,000 in rewards in an effort to find Harmony Montgomery. They said they were working to find her with the state Division for Children, Youth and Families and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“An innocent child is unaccounted for and we are working tirelessly to get the answers needed to locate her,” police said in a news release about the increased donations being offered by local businesses.
Gov. Chris Sununu, during his weekly news conference on COVID-19 updates, also pleaded for help in finding Harmony.
“We need to bring her home safely,” he said.
Harmony’s mother called Manchester police in November to say she hadn’t seen her daughter in a while. She originally told officers she hadn’t seen her in over six months, but then said it had been since Easter 2019, when she video chatted with the father and Harmony, according to a police affidavit.
Police said Adam Montgomery was arrested on a second-degree assault charge Tuesday, as well as on charges of interfering with custody and child endangerment. Police accused him of “purposely violating a duty of care, protection or support” by failing to know where she has been since late 2019 — the last reported sighting of Harmony.
In an interview with police, Harmony’s great-uncle told officers he saw her with a black eye in July 2019. He said Montgomery told him he hit her after he had seen his daughter holding her hand over her younger brother’s mouth to stop him from crying, according to the police documents.
The family member said he notified the state’s child protective services.
Montgomery’s brother also told police he was concerned he was “super short” with the child.