The wife of missing 7-year-old New Hampshire girl Harmony Montgomery's father has been arrested on welfare fraud charges stemming from food stamp benefits she claimed on behalf of the child even though Harmony was no longer living with them.
Kayla Montgomery, 31, of Manchester, was arrested Wednesday on a warrant for one charge of welfare fraud, the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office said.
Prosecutors allege that between December 2019 and June 2021, Kayla Montgomery obtained $1,500 in food stamp benefits by failing to remove Harmony Montgomery from Kayla's family account with the state Department of Health and Human Services and continuing to collect food stamp benefits for Harmony despite the fact that she was no longer living with Kayla and her husband, Harmony's father Adam Montgomery.
Kayla Montgomery is not Harmony's biological mother, authorities said.
She was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning in Hillsborough County Superior Court.
Officials said they are continuing to search for Harmony. Gov. Chris Sununu said later Thursday, "We need to bring her home safely. We want to make sure we have all hands on deck."
Adam Montgomery was arrested Tuesday on several charges, including one accusing him of failing to have Harmony in his custody.
Manchester police set up a 24-hour tip line this week and offered cash rewards in an effort to find Harmony. They said they were working with the state Division for Children, Youth and Families and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to find her.
Harmony’s mother, who lives in Massachusetts, had 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 had legal custody of Harmony. He was arrested on a second-degree assault charge Tuesday, as well as 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.
Montgomery, 31, of Manchester, had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf by his lawyer. He has been jailed without bail.
A message seeking comment was left at his lawyer’s office late Wednesday.
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 Adam was “super short” with the child.
Police first became aware Harmony might be missing when they took her mother’s call in November. Police said officers contacted child protective services to find addresses for Montgomery, but were unsuccessful.
The mother told police she had lost custody of Harmony to the state in 2018, in part to a substance abuse issue. She said she last saw her daughter during a Facetime video call with Adam Montgomery around Easter 2019.
The mother told police that, since then, she unsuccessfully made attempts to find Harmony by contacting various schools and driving by addresses associated with Montgomery. She said last year, he and his partner had blocked all communication from her. A boyfriend who lived with Harmony’s mother in 2019 said he’s never met Harmony in person.
Kayla Montgomery, who said she shares three younger children with Adam, told police she had last seen Harmony in November or December of 2019. She said Montgomery was driving the child to see her mother. She said she didn’t see Harmony after that.
By the end of last year, police said they had made contact with Adam Montgomery and other family members. Montgomery was found sleeping in a vehicle with a girlfriend in Manchester. He said initially that Harmony was fine and he had seen her recently, but then later said he hadn’t seen her since her mother picked her up in Manchester around Thanksgiving 2019.
Police told Montgomery they were concerned his daughter “had not been physically observed in over two years and that we had concern for whether or not she was still alive,” the affidavit said. “Adam did not exhibit much emotion or reaction to this,” adding he believed she was with her mother. He eventually stopped answering questions.
In Manchester, Police Chief Allen Aldenberg said Harmony was last seen by police at a home in the city in October 2019. Police responded to a service call there, and had no reason to return to the address after that.
“Help us find this little girl,” he said at a news conference Monday. “Someone knows something. Do what is right and call in.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.