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10/02/2017

Montgomery sentenced to 28 years in mother's murder

Montgomery sentenced to 28 years in mother's murder

  • Concurrent 23-year sentence given in father’s stabbing
     

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Awaiting his fate
Travis Montgomery walks to a courtroom to hear his sentence in the November 2013 killing of his mother on Friday, Sept. 22.
 
Article and Picture contributed by The Journal Record
 
By TRACY ESTES
News Editor
 
HAMILTON - Confessed murderer Travis Montgomery has been sentenced to 28 years in the stabbing death of his mother and 23 years in the stabbing of his father in an incident dating back to November 2013.
 
Marion County Circuit Court Judge Lee Carter handed down the sentences in a 90-minute hearing held at the Marion County Courthouse on Friday afternoon, Sept. 22.
 
The sentences will run concurrently, meaning Montgomery will be serving the two sentences at the same time.
 
“This is a difficult case with a murder and an attempted murder involving a 16-year-old at the time,’’ said Carter in reference to the defendant, who is now 20.
 
Saying there were various factors coming into play in the crime and the sentencing, the judge said his view has been impacted when taking into consideration the defendant’s age.
 
In fact, Carter said he would have viewed the crime differently had Montgomery been even four or five years older.
 
For an adult, Carter said he would be opposed to any sentence less than life in prison in a murder case. But the judge said sentencing for a juvenile is different than that of an adult.
Carter agreed with the sworn testimony of a clinical psychologist who took the stand for the defense, saying the juvenile brain is not fully developed. However, Carter said the testimony of family members in the sentencing hearing had carried more weight than the paid testimony given by Dr. Robert Bare of Birmingham.
 
“I am sympathetic to the defendant due to his age,’’ Carter added. “I hate to see him spend the rest of his life in prison. But when you look at the offenses . . . There is no sentence that will bring (the victim) Renee  (Montgomery) back.’’
 
Turning to the defendant, the judge said Montgomery had options, adding he could have sought help from school counselors or the police, if he were living in an abusive home.
 
With these words, Carter passed sentence and the defendant was led from the courtroom in the same manner he entered two hours earlier--handcuffed and in leg chains.
 
Before the judge handed down the sentence, witnesses on either side of the aisle were called to the stand to offer testimony in the case.
 
Included among the witnesses were the defendant’s father, two brothers, two aunts and a cousin. With the exception of the psychologist and an aunt, the witnesses were called by the prosecution.
 
Marion County District Attorney Scott Slatton asked each to read from statements the witnesses had written in the months following the incident.
 
Montgomery’s father, Wade, described his life since the incident, saying he suffers with physical pain daily from the stab wounds suffered in the attack. Due to stab wounds in the shoulder blade area, Wade Montgomery is not able to use his right arm. He said there is not a day he does not relive the encounter.
 
Asked the sentence his son should receive, the elder Montgomery said life without parole would be the most appropriate. 
 
Mongtomery’s brother, Robert, noted his mother was lost in the attack while his children lost a grandmother. The brother said he lost a job, house and vehicle as a result of the attack, saying he had missed quite a bit of time on the job following the attack.
 
“I lost my brother because I have no interaction with him. That hurts me, too,’’ said Robert Montgomery.
 
He recommended that his brother be sentenced to serve 20 years followed by three years of work release. Doing so would allow his brother to leave his prison cell in his 30s and return to society.
 
Montgomery’s brother Blake testified to suffering from depression since losing his mother and seeing his father suffer from the injuries of that fateful night.
 
Blake Montgomery said he has received treatment on two occasions since from a psychiatric facility in Jasper.
 
This brother was not as forgiving as Robert, saying Travis should spend the “rest of his life in prison,’’ guaranteeing he could not harm anyone else.
 
“If he could do this to his own mother and father, I hate to think what he could do to someone else,’’ said Blake Montgomery.
 
A cousin, Christina Barton, admitted she had originally felt the death penalty was the most appropriate penalty, but has since shifted her opinion. 
 
“Now, I want him to sit behind bars for life and never see the outside of a prison again,’’ Barton said.
 
Coming to Montgomery’s defense was an aunt, Lisa Reynolds Turner, who lived just up the street from the Montgomery house.
 
Having now driven a school bus to schools in Bear Creek for more than 21 years, Turner said Montgomery was forbidden from riding her bus home, even on the coldest and rainiest days. Turner testified Montgomery’s mother believed she had called the Marion County Department of Human Resources to report abuse in the home. She testified she had not.
But as a result, the mother forbade her son from riding home from school on the bus driven by the family member. Turner said she had known of times the defendant had walked more than five miles in one direction to and from school.
 
Turner said there were many times she provided the defendant with $5 per day for lunch and a snack at school, as he had no money.
 
Questioned regarding her recommendation for final sentencing, Turner said she would like to see Montgomery released on time served, which is now almost four years.
 
“I love my sister and miss her very much, but he has been through enough,’’ said Turner, as she began to cry.
 
The judge would later say he could understand Turner’s feelings, but he could not allow Montgomery to walk free after such a limited time.
 
The sentencing brings to an end a case which began almost four years ago with the death of Montgomery’s mother and the infliction of several stab wounds on his father, who was in the family’s manufactured home at the time of the incident.
 
The sentencing hearing was held less than three months after Montgomery entered a guilty plea in the case on July 10. The defendant entered the plea with no knowledge of what his sentence might be, under what the legal community calls a blind plea.
 
In the early stages of the legal battle, Montgomery had contended his actions had been taken in self-defense.
 
Slatton previously described the agreement as the same as being found guilty by jury trial.
Under state law, Slatton said the more than 48 months the defendant has served to this point will be deducted from the total time he will serve from that point forward.
 
Serving as defense counsel in the case were Jim Standridge of Tuscaloosa and Tony Glenn of Hamilton.
 
Background
 
In an April 21 hearing at the Marion County Courthouse, Montgomery had been led in wearing handcuffs and leg chains with the restraints being removed prior to the hearing.
 
The defendant’s father was 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 the hearing marked the first time he had seen his son since the incident more than 41 months earlier.
 
The elder Montgomery 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 posed 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 Renee Montgomery 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 smoked 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 for the case, 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 the 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 and were told their son had rejected the option of being treated at a facility in Decatur. Officials in Jasper had secured a bed for Montgomery, but he refused to be transferred.
 
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 texted the other woman demanding the relationship be ended.
 
Eventually leaving the hospital, the Montgomerys made the drive home with a plan to admit the youngster to such 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 travelling to and from the hospital. Electrical cords for phones and other electronic devices were inside, with Standridge noting 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 collectable 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.’’
 
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 behavior.
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 at 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.
 
Montgomery will be processed at Kilby Correctional Facility in Montgomery, at which time he will be given assignment to a specific facility in the state penal system.

 

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