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05/08/2017

Montgomery claims self-defense in mother’s murder
MARION COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
Montgomery claims self-defense in mother’s murder
  • Father recounts final minutes in fatal struggle
IMG_0919.jpg 
Inmate Travis Montgomery led into the Marion County Courthouse by Sheriff Kevin Williams, Chief Deputy Jeff Davis, and Jail Administrator Dawn Dodd. 
 
Article and photo contributed by The Journal Record
By TRACY ESTES
News Editor
 
HAMILTON - A ruling will be handed down next month on whether or not the testimony given by a murder suspect in an immunity hearing can be used against him as part of the actual murder trial.
 
Travis Michael Montgomery, 20, has been charged in the stabbing death of his mother and stab wounds to his father in an altercation in their home in November 2013.
 
The defendant appeared in Marion County Circuit Court on Friday, April 21, to decide whether or not the charges now pending should be waived since Montgomery claims to have acted in self defense.
 
Marion County Circuit Court Judge Lee Carter is presiding over the case.
 
Defense attorneys asked if the testimony Montgomery was expected to offer in the immunity hearing could not be used at the time of trial, if the court rejected his claims of self defense.
 
Citing precedents in other such cases, lead defense attorney Jim Standridge of Tuscaloosa motioned for Carter to allow such testimony.
 
Serving as co-counsel in the case is Hamilton attorney Tony Glenn.
 
Saying he was not prepared to rule on the request, Carter excused himself from the third floor courtroom at the Marion County Courthouse to research the issue further. Less than 25 minutes later, Carter returned to the bench, saying he would need more time to offer a final ruling.
 
In addition, the judge said the attorneys representing the defendant and Marion County District Attorney Scott Slatton would be given two weeks to file briefs arguing their stand on this specific request.
 
Saying he wanted to take the request under advisement, Carter said it was critical the proper decision be made in the request as a “wrong decision could affect the case.’’
 
Slatton argued, by taking the stand, the defendant would be waiving his Fifth Amendment right not to provide testimony against himself which could be incriminating.
 
Assisting Slatton with the state’s presentation will be assistant district attorney Paige Vick, who was seated at the prosecution’s table.
 
Adjourning the court, the judge watched as the defendant was cuffed and lead away from the courtroom. Montgomery entered the court in leg chains and handcuffs, only to have the hand restraints removed before the proceedings began.
 
The request began the latter portion of the day’s testimony after the defendant’s father, Wade Montgomery, had been questioned by Standridge for almost two hours prior to the lunchtime intermission.
 
The testimony painted the picture of the young man’s home life and the series of events which occurred in the hours leading up to the fight which resulted in the father’s stab wounds and the mother’s death.
 
In his testimony, the father confirmed this hearing marked the first time he had seen his son since the incident more than 41 months earlier.
 
Beginning the hearing, the judge noted the burden in this immunity session lied strictly with the defense team.
 
Taking the stand within minutes was the defendant’s father, who noted he and his wife had been married for more than 28 years prior to her death, including two stints in which the couple was separated.
 
The second separation ended about three months prior to Renee Montgomery’s death. She was 46 while her husband was 49 at the time.
 
Wade Montgomery said the defendant was the youngest of the couple’s three sons, but was the only one still living at home at the time of the event.
 
In his response to questions offered by Standridge, Wade Montgomery confirmed the couple had custody of two of their grandchildren earlier in the year prior to her death. Yet the couple eventually forfeited such custody after she failed a drug test.
 
Throughout his testimony, Wade Montgomery confirmed his late wife was a known user of marijuana. He said she had smoked the illegal substance in their home numerous times--a practice not witnessed by the children or grandchildren. He said his wife would conduct her smoking sessions in the privacy of her bedroom.
 
Wade Montgomery agreed when asked by Standridge if his wife regularly sold sex toys from their home while also scheduling parties for women to which male dancers attended wearing nothing more than a “G-String,’’ to use the husband’s definition.
 
But the turn of events which led to the fatal incident began just before midnight on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.
 
Testimony revealed where the Montgomerys were awakened in their home by police around 11 p.m. that evening.
 
Authorities informed the couple their son was being held at the Haleyville Police Department under charges of public intoxication.
 
Wade Montgomery said it was only after the couple had arrived at the department they were informed of the charges against their son.
 
Referencing prior testimony given in a deposition, Wade Montgomery said the only words uttered by his son while sitting in the police department in handcuffs were “I want to die.’’
Released to his parents, the younger Montgomery was taken to Walker Baptist Medical Center in Jasper where his parents believed he could receive treatment. 
 
Officials at the hospital said they were not designed to offer adolescent physiological care. Montgomery said the hospital officials began searching for a facility which could admit the teen for treatment.
 
Stepping outside to their car, the couple returned later to be told their son had rejected the option of being transferred to a facility in Decatur. Officials in Jasper had secured a bed for Montgomery, but he refused further treatment.
 
While outside, the couple reviewed material contained on their son’s cell phone, only to learn he was involved in a relationship with a woman in her early 20s--something which did not set well with his mother. Further testimony would reveal where the mother text the other woman demanding the relationship be ended.
 
Eventually leaving the hospital, the Montgomerys made the drive home with a plan to admit the teen to a psychological facility against his wishes on Monday.
 
Montgomery testified the admitting clerk at the hospital had informed them their son had admitted to thinking of “strangling us (parents) on the way to the hospital.’’
 
Montgomery said he never actually heard his son utter such words.
 
Standridge noted the youth had possession of a duffle bag while traveling to and from the hospital. Cords for phones and other electronic devices were inside, with the attorney saying the suspect could have used those at any time during the drive had it been his intention to harm his parents.
 
Returning home, the elder Montgomery gathered a series of collectible knives lying on a table in his son’s room. He said the knives were stored in the couple’s bedroom for further safekeeping. Montgomery said both he and his son collected such knives.
 
Saying his son would not speak at any time in the car, Montgomery said the family retired to bed immediately. Wade Montgomery slept on the couch while his wife used the couple’s bed.
 
The following morning, the suspect awakened mid-morning to fix himself a bowl of cereal before eating a sandwich later in the day.
 
In his testimony, the elder Montgomery defined the next morning as a “normal day.’’
Slatton objected at this point, saying the hearing was being held to determine if the suspect acted in self defense. 
 
The district attorney said the hearing had lasted more than an hour, with the questioning being nothing more than a “fishing expedition.’’ He said there had been no effort to show where Montgomery’s action were taken in defense of his own life.
 
Carter overruled, allowing Standridge to continue.
 
Retiring for the evening on Sunday night, Montgomery said he had been asleep in his room for about an hour when the sound of his wife screaming out his name awakened him.
Barely outside his bedroom door, Montgomery said he was encountered by his son as the struggle began. 
 
“He was all over me,’’ said Montgomery in reference to his son’s aggressive nature.
Montgomery said his son “knocked him up against’’ the entertainment center only to kick the father in the chest.
 
Asked by Standridge if he ever saw his son holding a weapon, Montgomery said he could not recall, as things had happened so quickly. Saying it was dark through most of the house, Montgomery said he had managed to get on top of his son briefly as the struggle found the men on the father’s bed.
 
With the mother entering the room, Montgomery said the fight immediately involved all three parties. The father said he instructed his wife to call Marion County E-911 for aid.
 
Sustaining injuries in the struggle, Montgomery said he was uncertain as to the degree of his injuries until the fight had ended and his son had left the house.
 
Lying near the bed with cuts to his shoulders and what turned out to be a cut to the back of his neck which has since left his right arm useless, Montgomery said he heard his wife scream from the bathroom, “you slit my throat.’’
 
Montgomery said he had not heard any more fighting after those words. 
 
Later in the question-and-answer exchange, it was noted blood was found by authorities all over the bedroom door. 
 
Attempting to strengthen his argument for self-defense, the attorney pointed out that the suspect must have weighed in the neighborhood of 130 pounds at the time of the fight while his mother weighed 236 pounds, according to the official autopsy.
 
Standridge suggested it was not possible for the suspect to physically challenge his mother with any success due to the discrepancy in size.
 
Montgomery said his son reached for a .38 caliber handgun on the closet shelf after he returned to the bedroom. The father said the gun was old and could not be fired. He added there was no ammunition for the weapon inside the family’s mobile home.
 
Lying on the floor near the bed with his injuries, Montgomery said he asked his son why he was taking such action.
 
“I have wanted to do this for a long time,’’ were the words the father heard in return based on his testimony.
 
“Could he not have killed you had he wanted to as this point?’’ Standridge asked the defendant’s father.
 
Montgomery said his son grabbed the father’s cell phone and truck keys. The father said he instructed the son to take the vehicle and leave the house.
 
Saying his entire right side was numb due to his injuries, Montgomery recalled crawling down the hallway to check on his wife. He testified he could not find a pulse. In time, he crawled around her body and into the living room. He said his injuries prevented him from leaving the home in the cold November air to seek help. Dressed only is his underwear, Montgomery wrapped a curtain around his shoulders, raising a nearby window from time to time to scream for help.
 
Family arrived more than five hours later with medical personnel called to the home. He was later transported by helicopter for further treatment at the University of Alabama Medical Center in Birmingham.
 
Montgomery was later moved to Spain Rehabilitation in Birmingham where he received treatment “for weeks,’’ according to the defense attorney.
 
Additional witnesses were scheduled to be called during the hearing, but were not after the motion was made by the defense not to use the defendant’s testimony at trial.
 
(When a defendant is charged with a crime, the charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.)
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