Police: EMT stabbing suspect flew ‘under the radar’
In a world where technology allows police to keep close tabs on suspects, Michael Montgomery avoided detection for his alleged violent crimes going back more than a decade, despite detectives having his DNA when he was arrested in January.
Montgomery, 30, was arrested Tuesday night, a day after police believe he stabbed two Detroit paramedics who were responding to an emergency call in the Cass Corridor. He was arraigned Wednesday for unrelated sexual assaults from 2005 and 2006, the latter incident ending in a fatal stabbing.
Police had taken Montgomery’s DNA from the earlier crime scenes, but did not know whom it belonged to, said Assistant Detroit Police Chief Steven Dolunt.
“He’s been flying under the radar,” he said.
In January, Montgomery was arrested for an alleged domestic assault, and police took a sample of his DNA. When the woman decided not to press charges, Montgomery was released. With no case, police had little incentive to compare his sample to others in the system, a not uncommon practice when cases with witnesses who agree to press charges take precedence.
Hours before Monday’s attack, homicide detectives and prosecutors decided to put a priority on finding the unknown suspect from the crimes a decade ago, said Sgt. Lance Sullivan, head of the department’s Cold Case Squad.
“We had an unidentified male floating in the system,” he said.
“It was brought to our attention Tuesday morning that he may have been connected to the EMS case and our case.”
Sullivan said once the swab from the January case was analyzed this week “it matched the samples of the unknown male in the system.”
It’s not unusual for a suspect to slip through the cracks, even if police have DNA on file, said Daniel Kennedy, an Oakland University criminal justice professor.
“It’s not just a matter of cost; it’s time, which a lot of these detectives don’t have,” Kennedy said. “As a practical matter, police usually aren’t going to process DNA unless they have a guy in their sights who’s about to be prosecuted. In this case, when (Montgomery) was arrested for the domestic assault in January, if the victim didn’t want to prosecute, the police normally wouldn’t run the DNA sample.
“As a detective, you have a choice: You can process the DNA in a case where the victim isn’t going to prosecute, and maybe something will come of it, and maybe it won’t. Or, you can process the next case, where you have a witness who’s willing to testify, and you have a chance of getting a conviction.”
Kennedy called deciding which cases to pursue “like a triage.”
“You have to deal with the DNA that’s more likely to result in a prosecution,” he said. “That doesn’t make it right, but given the number of cases police are dealing with, that’s the reality. They have to make those decisions.”
Dolunt said he wasn’t sure how Montgomery was able to stay on the lam so long. He said it’s possible his victims were too frightened to contact police, which, Kennedy said, isn’t unusual.
“A lot of women are scared to death the guy will be out in 30 days and come back and finish the job,” he said. “So out of fear, many women don’t prosecute.”
Montgomery didn’t resist officers during his arrest Tuesday night in the Whitcomb and Fenkell area.
“He said he was sorry,” Dolunt said.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy on Monday charged Montgomery with first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder and first-degree criminal sexual conduct in the Jan. 1, 2006, killing of a 16-year-old Detroit girl on the 19800 block of Joy Road. The first-degree murder charge carries a penalty of life in prison.
Montgomery may also face two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, torture and felony firearm stemming from the Dec. 23, 2005, kidnapping of a 33-year-old Detroit woman in an alley on the 8600 block of Auburn.
Magistrate Laura Echartea of 36th District Court said Wednesday she had not yet received a file on those charges after prosecutors announced them earlier Wednesday.
Echartea entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf during the video arraignment and ordered him held without bond.
His probable cause hearing is scheduled for Oct. 28 and his preliminary exam for Nov. 4.
Montgomery said little during the proceedings, speaking only to answer the judge’s questions about his name and whether he understood his rights and his bond.
Prosecutors said they have not received a warrant request in the Detroit first responders slashing case.
“He’s a bad character,” Dolunt said of Montgomery. “We believe there are more cases he’s tied to but we don’t have complaints. Anyone who was a victim of Montgomery should contact us immediately.”
Meanwhile, the conditions of the two emergency medical technicians have improved. Kelly Adams, 49, and Alfredo Rojas, 25, were released from Detroit Receiving Hospital, spokeswoman Ruth Kremer said.
They were responding at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday to a call at 3430 Third about a woman with a minor ankle injury outside the Neighborhood Services Organization homeless shelter south of Midtown.
As they were treating the woman, a man who was with her became agitated. He stabbed and slashed Rojas several times in the hands and face with an unknown weapon, officials said.
He then stabbed and slashed Adams several times after she came to Rojas’ aid.
Officials said the two EMTs rushed themselves to Detroit Receiving Hospital with “very serious injuries” after the attack. Both suffered deep lacerations.
Dolunt said Wednesday the two EMTs “nearly bled out from their injuries.”
In an interview with WDIV-TV (Channel 4), Rojas said doctors told him he nearly lost his right eye.
“They said it was millimeters away from my eye … so I got lucky,” he told the station.
Dolunt said investigators recovered a weapon among Montgomery’s clothing when he was arrested, but are waiting for DNA analysis to determine whether it was used in the attack on the EMTs.
The woman whom Adams and Rojas were called to help initially also was arrested. Her relationship to Montgomery was unclear.
A GoFundMe page was set up for Adams and Rojas. Nearly $3,000 had been raised by late Wednesday.
“You two are part of the real heart and soul of Metro Detroit,” one donor wrote. “Hoping for a quick recovery.”
Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed to this report.