Concord Montgomery was murdered by her father. The system failed her — then forgot about her for two years

Concord Montgomery was murdered by her father. The system failed her — then forgot about her for two years

The storm of unlucky occasions that led to a Massachusetts courtroom awarding custody of Concord Montgomery to her father would ultimately show deadly.

For the primary 4 years of her life, Concord’s childhood had been so much like her little brother Jamison’s. They had been born two years aside to a mom who was actively scuffling with substance abuse points and continually discovered themselves out and in of foster houses.

“The trauma that they’d been by way of at a really younger age … All they actually had was one another. Concord was Jamison’s solely fixed,” Blair Miller, who adopted Jamison alongside together with his husband Jonathon Bobbitt-Miller, tells The Unbiased.

Jamison formally grew to become a Miller in November 2019 and per week later, the household gathered to have a good time the little boy’s birthday at their Boston residence. That very same weekend, simply over 50 miles away in Manchester, New Hampshire, Concord was killed. She was 5 years previous.

“All I can consider is, ‘Gosh, we had been celebrating Jamison’s birthday when Concord was being overwhelmed behind a automotive,” Mr Miller stated.

The Millers had inquired about adopting Concord, a rambunctious little lady with an infectious grin who was blind in her proper eye, however had been instructed that will not be attainable. The Massachusetts Division of Kids and Households (DCF) knowledgeable the household that Concord had been reunited along with her organic father, Adam Montgomery.

Montgomery was discovered responsible by a jury in late February of beating Concord to demise after she had a rest room accident.

A constellation of missed warning indicators, systemic failures, inconsistent legal guidelines throughout two states, and obscure insurance policies resulted in Concord being positioned within the arms of her father, who had a violent felony historical past and was in jail on the time she was born.

“It was one resolution after one other that put her on a path of lethality along with her father,” Carol Erskine, a Massachusetts baby advocate, juvenile courtroom choose, and writer of an upcoming e-book about Harmonytold The Unbiased.

From June 2014, when DCF opened the case, to February 2019, when her father was awarded custody of Concord, the DCF case administration group by no means accomplished an evaluation of him, the Massachusetts Workplace of the Baby Advocate (OCA) famous.

Simply 40 hours of visitation and an intensive felony historical past

Maybe if a correct evaluation of Adam Montgomery had been performed, businesses would have seen his prolonged felony historical past, which incorporates every little thing from theft to armed assault.

“There was only a record of harmful crimes that made him a transparent threat, for my part, to having the ability to father or mother their baby,” Ms Erskine stated.

The previous choose defined that when figuring out the position of a kid, a choose will solely contemplate a felony previous if the crimes are “related”. For instance, “when there’s a file of ongoing unabated violence, with weapons and crimes towards people, then it turns into extra related when it comes to parenting.”

One other crimson flag seems to have been ignored when deciding to award Concord’s father custody: the dearth of time he had spent along with her throughout her life.

“Mr Montgomery was out and in of Concord’s life since delivery, not persistently visiting along with her for greater than 4 to 6 months at a time, with lengthy intervals of no contact,” the Massachusetts OCA’s 2022 report states. One hole between Montgomery’s visits to Concord spanned 11 months.

The OCA estimated that the kid had spent 40 hours throughout 20 supervised visits along with her father from the time she was born to age 4 and a half. The report additionally famous that there isn’t any proof that her father tried to “perceive or accommodate” her visible impairment or the emotional trauma she had already endured in her younger life.

Ms Erskine laid out a collection of points in courtroom when Montgomery was awarded custody. The DCF lawyer, whereas against the daddy being awarded custody of Concord, didn’t pursue necessary strains of inquiry – resembling his parental capability, job stability, housing state of affairs, or understanding of her visible impairment – based on the Massachusetts report. As a result of DCF’s case was “extraordinarily weak”, the choose didn’t hear substantial related proof, Ms Erskine stated.

On prime of this, Concord didn’t have a court-appointed baby advocate. “If there had been an unbiased voice for Concord, issues might need been very completely different as a result of the choose might need heard data that was not conveyed to the courtroom by the legal professionals,” Ms Erskine added.

Whatever the dearth of data, the choose awarded Adam Montgomery full custody.

“This was a case that was open with the courtroom for 4 years and eight months and the trial lasted someplace between six and eight hours,” Ms Erskine stated. On the identical time, Concord’s mom Crystal Sorey had a scheduling battle in a distinct courtroom relating to the care and safety of Jamison, Concord’s half-brother. Concord’s listening to subsequently proceeded with out her mom.

Concord was then despatched to stay along with her father in New Hampshire.

Interstate points performed large position in lack of security checks

Transferring to a different state opened the floodgates for extra missed warning indicators.

Ms Erskine stated that “the main downside” within the case is that there are completely different interpretations by Massachusetts and New Hampshire of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Kids (ICPC) – which is a legislation enacted throughout all 50 states that requires check-ins concerning the baby’s welfare.

The ICPC requires an investigation, together with a felony background examine and a house research.

The Massachusetts juvenile courtroom choose requested an expedited ICPC to analyse what inserting Concord in Adam Montgomery’s care – in one other state – would appear like. Nevertheless, the Massachusetts report stated that the New Hampshire ICPC Compact Administrator had not acted on the ICPC request by the date of the February 2019 listening to.

So “Concord was positioned within the custody of Mr Montgomery with no accomplished ICPC,” the Massachusetts report states.

Cassandra Sanchez, a toddler advocate on the New Hampshire OCA, defined that Massachusetts had despatched an ICPC request to be accomplished by New Hampshire however some paperwork had been lacking.

“The sending state is the one that should observe up,” she stated. Ms Sanchez additionally labored on the Massachusetts OCA in the course of the Montgomery case. She stated it was “stunning” that the choose “moved ahead with placement of the kid to a father or mother earlier than that was accomplished”. There was by no means a house research at Adam Montgomery’s home.

In the end, the choose decided that the ICPC didn’t apply, and the DCF lawyer – the one lawyer to argue that the ICPC utilized to Concord’s case – didn’t attraction that call, the Massachusetts report states.

When the ICPC didn’t occur, it “left Concord alone in a house with a person who had a harmful, violent felony previous”, stated Ms Erskine.

The start of the top for Concord Montgomery

It took simply months after Concord moved in along with her father for abuse allegations to floor.

In July 2019, Kevin Montgomery, Adam Montgomery’s uncle, reported that Concord had been abused after seeing a black eye on the little lady – and stated that her father had admitted inflicting it.

“I bashed her round this home,” Kevin Montgomery stated Adam Montgomery had instructed him. The uncle stated he contacted DCYF and had additionally seen that Adam had subjected his daughter to different types of “abusive self-discipline”, resembling scrubbing a bathroom along with her toothbrush and being “spanked laborious on the butt”.

Michael Montgomery, Adam Montgomery’s brother, additionally instructed investigators he “had issues that Adam was bodily abusive” to the kid and was “tremendous quick” along with her.

New Hampshire DCYF visited the house the identical day as the decision and determined the declare was unfounded. Nevertheless, because the New Hampshire report notes, the DCYF employee solely noticed the kid for a fleeting second. It stated: “This evaluation was performed as Adam Montgomery and Concord had been coming into their automobile and departing.”

A couple of weeks later, in August, when the employee performed a second, “extra detailed evaluation”, they seen a crimson mark in her eye and pale bruising underneath her eyelid, the report says. Concord, her father and his spouse, Kayla Montgomery, all instructed the employee that the kid had been unintentionally hit with a toy lightsaber whereas taking part in with a sibling.

After yet one more evaluation in October 2019, the employee rated the state of affairs as “excessive threat” for future baby welfare involvement.

Nobody noticed or heard from Concord once more.

A homicide left unreported for 2 years

Police have narrowed down the window when Concord Montgomery died to between late November and early December 2019.

On the trial, the courtroom heard graphic particulars of the little lady’s demise. In accordance with the testimony of her stepmother, Concord was overwhelmed to demise after she dirty herself however Montgomery and his estranged spouse Kayla didn’t realise for some hours that she was lifeless. Kayla Montgomery was the important thing witness at Montgomery’s trial after reaching a plea deal on unrelated expenses of perjury. She is at the moment serving an 18-month jail sentence and has not been charged with any offence towards Concord.

In accordance with the stepmother, the little lady made “bizarre moaning noises” as she lay behind the automotive after the beating. Her severely bruised, tiny physique was coated by a blanket and her face was soiled with blood from beatings within the days earlier than.

The Montgomerys drove to a Burger King after which to a good friend’s condo advanced to purchase medication earlier than they realised Concord was not respiratory, Kayla Montgomery stated. For the following two months, Adam Montgomery went to horrific lengths to cut back Concord’s stays, earlier than he disposed of what was left of her in March 2020.

Nonetheless, two years on from her demise, no authorities had been even searching for Concord.

In January 2020, the New Hampshire DCYF obtained yet one more report concerning the Montgomery family; Adam Montgomery knowledgeable the company that Concord was not there, and as an alternative was residing along with her mom in Massachusetts.

DCYF proceeded to attempt to get in contact with Crystal Sorey, to no avail. Each state reviews say that she didn’t return their one name and voicemail trying to contact her.

“There was not a strict guideline in place on the time for [DCYF] to have to attach with the mother and father; they made makes an attempt,” Ms Sanchez defined.

The Montgomery family obtained quite a few baby welfare reviews from January by way of March 2021 – none of those complaints pertained to Concord. When brokers requested about Concord’s whereabouts, Adam Montgomery stated that she was along with her mom and he hadn’t seen his daughter in a yr, state reviews say.

Unusually, each state reviews make no point out of the little lady from March 2020 – when brokers tried, unsuccessfully, to contact Ms Sorey – till a yr and a half later, in September 2021. The hole underscores that seemingly nobody had been making an attempt to maintain tabs on the little lady within the interim, regardless of neither company having the ability to affirm the place she was staying.

It wasn’t till September 2021, when somebody near Ms Sorey requested the New Hampshire baby welfare company about Concord, that something was accomplished. That particular person stated that the kid’s mom hadn’t seen her daughter since Easter 2019 and hadn’t been in a position to get in touch with Adam Montgomery with a view to go to her daughter.

Solely then did New Hampshire’s baby welfare company affirm that Concord had by no means been registered for varsity within the state. At that time, she would have been seven years previous.

So, in December 2021, the seek for the lady started, with businesses believing they had been searching for a lacking seven-year-old. On 31 December, the identical day that police publicised Concord’s disappearance, New Hampshire officers discovered the little lady’s father residing in his automotive. When requested the place his daughter was, he offered “contradictory” explanations, reviews say.

Days later, he was arrested and charged with second-degree assault, interference with custody and endangering the welfare of a kid.

In October 2022, Adam Montgomery was charged with homicide. Greater than 4 years later, Concord’s physique has but to be discovered.

A jury discovered Montgomery responsible of second diploma homicide in February. His sentencing was to happen on 9 Might.

A loving household who would have adopted her

Blair Miller and his husband watched Montgomery’s trial with “an eye fixed open” and the opposite closed, he instructed The Unbiased earlier than the jury reached its verdict in February. Naturally, a toddler homicide case would have its share of grim particulars, however the data that emerged in the course of the two and a half weeks of proceedings proved disturbing past comprehension.

Throughout closing arguments, prosecutor Ben Agati’s voice cracked with anger and outrage.

“The one elements of Concord which can be left can be with you in that deliberation room, on that pink toothbrush, and on that a part of [bloodied] ceiling wall,” Mr Agati instructed jurors earlier than deliberations started on Wednesday, of the final objects identified to include Concord’s DNA. “And the opposite elements of her physique, her torso, her face, her eyes, that smile … solely the defendant, as we sit and stand right here right this moment, is aware of the place they’re. He can’t afford to say the place they’re, as a result of the proof contained on them will present that he induced her demise, so she gained’t get the burial that she deserves.”

Though Concord’s physique was abused in unimaginable methods, her legacy lives on in her little brother. After he was adopted by the Millers, Jamison regarded for Concord in each blonde little lady he noticed whereas out together with his mother and father and siblings.

“We had been speaking to his mother about making an attempt to determine the place precisely Concord was as a result of Jamison was so decided to wish to maintain that relationship. He would ask about her so much. We’d be at a park and he’d say that’s Concord, off within the distance,” Mr Miller stated. “As a dad, you wish to assist repair that state of affairs.”

The Millers would have gladly adopted Concord. Once they had been instructed Jamison had a sister, they reached out to Montgomery through Fb messages about her residing along with her organic father, however they by no means heard again.

“We had at all times stated, ‘If something modifications, we might wish to maintain them collectively’,” Mr Miller stated. “We really feel lots of guilt from that as a result of we want we might have accomplished extra. We want we might have pushed more durable. We had been making an attempt to maintain a relationship between Jamison and his sister.”

Jamison shouldn’t be but conscious of the horrifying abuse his sister endured however understands that Concord is now not alive. His fathers welcome conversations about Concord and have tried to fill within the gaps with age-appropriate data.

On Jamison’s bed room door, the Millers have positioned an image of him and Concord. Within the picture, they’re each smiling. Concord is carrying her spherical glasses and a shirt that includes Minnie Mouse, her favorite cartoon character. Jamison is holding a stuffed animal tight in his arms. It’s a frozen second in time of the particular bond they as soon as shared, earlier than Concord’s life was taken and Jamison’s was irreparably modified.

“He nonetheless very a lot talks about his relationship with Concord and what she means to him,” stated Mr Miller. “Simply the opposite night time, he was saying throughout his night prayers, ‘I pray to God that he might simply do one factor and that’s to convey Concord again to life’.”

‘What has been accomplished so there’s not one other Concord?’

There have been some modifications carried out to handle the big selection of missteps that occurred in Concord’s case.

A spokesperson for the Massachusetts OCA instructed The Unbiased that its baby welfare company had decreased the caseloads of its workers attorneys. Equally, the New Hampshire OCA stated its baby welfare company employees now have a extra manageable case-load that’s “nearer to the [proposed] nationwide requirements,” Ms Sanchez stated.

Since this case, New Hampshire has additionally put in place new insurance policies for the way kids are evaluated after the kid welfare company receives a report. New Hampshire baby welfare brokers at the moment are required to see kids inside a sure timeframe and guarantee they’re “instantly laying eyes on the kid and never seeing a toddler in passing”, Ms Sanchez stated. Hopefully, it will keep away from one other fleeting second the place an agent noticed Concord from afar whereas she bought in a automotive. The brokers are additionally required “to sit down down and meet with the kid separate from the father or mother and potential perpetrator”, she added.

There are additionally tighter definitions pertaining to the child-parent relationship.

On prime of this, seemingly with a view to deal with Adam Montgomery being awarded custody after seeing his daughter for simply 40 hours, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have signed a memorandum of understanding requiring mother and father to show that they’ve a pre-existing relationship with a toddler.

If the father or mother and baby don’t have a pre-existing relationship or it will probably’t be confirmed, then the 2 states have agreed that the father or mother will bear a house research course of, Ms Sanchez defined.

After Adam Montgomery instructed the New Hampshire baby welfare company that Concord was residing along with her mom, the company tried contacting Ms Sorey as soon as – with out follow-up. Now, the company is required to proceed to attempt to get in contact with the father or mother till they join and are in a position to validate the whereabouts of the kid. If that father or mother says they don’t have the kid, the brokers should then “take steps to hunt out the place else that baby could also be”, Ms Sanchez stated.

Whereas some state insurance policies have been addressed, Ms Erskine has her sights set on altering federal laws. She hopes to change the language of the 1997 Adoption and Secure Households Act to make a house research and follow-up necessary within the instances wherein a toddler is to be with a father or mother in one other state.

The New Hampshire legislature introduced in February that it had began the “Concord Fee”. The home speaker stated {that a} “committee on the Division for Kids, Youth and Households (DCYF) is charged with contemplating all issues on due course of and practices regarding DCYF” and may “make suggestions for future laws”. Ms Sanchez stated the fee looks like it should discover “mother and father’ rights and their due course of. And for us, that’s the other of what we have to be taking a look at proper now”. She added, “Kids’s wants have to be on the forefront.”

“It comes again to … what’s going to occur? After this verdict, what are we going to do?” Mr Miller instructed The Unbiased. “I do know individuals are outraged however how will we harness that into creating change so there’s not one other Concord?”

On the Miller family, Concord is a central focus. The couple have met lawmakers in Massachusetts and DC to debate potential methods to keep away from historical past repeating itself.

Yearly, the Millers have a good time Concord’s 8 June birthday. It’s a practice that dates again to when she was reported lacking.

Final yr, they held the celebration on the Potomac River in DC.

“Jamison stated, ‘Let’s get some flowers and go put them within the river’,” Mr Miller recounted. “He stated, ‘All rivers ultimately result in heaven’. He wished the flowers to achieve her.”

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Written by bourbiza mohamed

Bourbiza Mohamed is a freelance journalist and political science analyst holding a Master's degree in Political Science. Armed with a sharp pen and a discerning eye, Bourbiza Mohamed contributes to various renowned sites, delivering incisive insights on current political and social issues. His experience translates into thought-provoking articles that spur dialogue and reflection.

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