Adam Montgomery trial on weapon charges delayed

Oct. 27—A judge on Thursday pushed back the trial of Adam Montgomery, which was scheduled to begin next month, after his lawyer said that statements made by his estranged wife had created a paradigm shift in the case.

Montgomery, 32, was scheduled to go on trial next month on 12 charges involving the theft of a shotgun and AK-47-style rifle from a Manchester home. Over these last several months, he had steadfastly refused to waive his speedy trial rights and jury selection had been scheduled for Nov. 7.

But on Monday, police announced they had charged him with murdering his 5-year-old daughter, Harmony, in December 2019. And only three weeks ago, prosecutors provided his defense attorney statements made by Kayla Montgomery that implicated her husband in the murder and the weapons theft.

"It's a paradigm shift, the information she provided," said public defender Caroline Smith. "It was a fairly narrow case before. It's perhaps gotten bigger, but I need more information to tell you."

She said she may have to depose Kayla Montgomery.

A new trial date was not set, but Montgomery will return to Hillsborough County Superior Court on Nov. 22, and at that point a trial could be scheduled.

Smith had hoped Superior Court Judge Amy Messer would prevent the prosecution from calling her client's estranged wife because of the four months that prosecutors waited before turning over statements Kayla Montgomery gave to police in early June.

Messer said it would be too harsh for her to prevent the testimony, but she did give Smith the opportunity to postpone the trial.

Judges are sympathetic to speedy trial demands when a defendant is in jail awaiting trial. But Messer noted that Montgomery now faces a murder charge, which would keep him jailed regardless of the outcome of the weapons trial.

Conviction on the firearms charges could send Montgomery to prison for decades because of his felony record.

The thefts are not directly related to Harmony's murder, but when Kayla Montgomery started cooperating with police on June 3, she implicated Adam Montgomery in both Harmony's murder and the weapons theft. In fact, police detectives struggled to keep Kayla Montgomery on topic, and there was significant bleed over between the murder and the weapons crimes, prosecutors have said.

Smith and her co-counsel, Paige Buckley, had devised a two-pronged defense strategy for the weapons crimes. One was to point to an alternative suspect — the allegedly drug-using wife of the gunowner.

The other was to attack the credibility of those who were going to testify that they saw Adam Montgomery with the guns. Nearly all have criminal records. But Kayla Montgomery apparently made reference to two other people — Smith said it's not clear who they are — involved in the case.

Also Thursday, Messer told homicide prosecutor Jesse O'Neill that he has to turn over evidence promptly.

"You can't just hold on to information; I want to be clear about that," the judge said.

mhayward@unionleader.com