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Sunday, May 14, 2023

The Harold Montague Ax Murder Case

     In 2010, 33-year-old Harold E. Montague lived in a single-story house with his wife Erricca, their two grade school children and Erricca's disabled mother, Monica O'Dazier. The family resided on San Pedro Avenue in the central valley area of Las Vegas. Erricca worked outside the home while her husband cared for her mother who had cerebral palsy and suffered seizures. Harold had been his mother-in-law's principal caregiver for the past five years.

     At eleven-forty on the morning of Thursday, February 11, 2010, Harold Montague removed a medieval-style battle ax that hung on a wall in his house and used the weapon to hack his mother-in-law twenty times. Leaving the gravely wounded O'Dazier bleeding in the rear bedroom of the dwelling, Montague, with the bloody battle ax in hand, walked out onto Pedro Avenue where he encountered a young mother pushing her 4-month-old son in a stroller.

     Montague walked up to Sonia Castro and her son Damian and started swing the weapon. He quickly hacked the baby to death, then struck Sonia several times in the head and hands as she tried to protect herself. During the murderous rampage Castro begged her attacker to stop. Instead of letting up, Montague laughed in her face. With the dead baby under the overturned stroller and the infant's mother on the ground with her jaw hanging loosely from her face, Montague walked back into his house.

     A neighbor, 52-year-old Teresa Garner, witnessed the attack and called 911. After making the emergency call, Garner ran to the victims. She found the baby dead and Sonia alive but horribly disfigured and bleeding profusely.

     Paramedics rushed the unconscious Monica O'Dazier to the University Medical Center. Sonia Castrol was taken to the same facility where she was listed in "extremely critical" condition. Both women would survive Montague's vicious attacks.

     Following a brief scuffle, Las Vegas officers arrested Harold Montague at his house. He told the officers that he had no memory of the assaults. They booked him into the Clark County Jail on suspicion of first-degree murder and attempted murder.

     The next day, at Montague's arraignment, the judge denied him bail. At that hearing, defense attorney Norm Reed characterized his client as delusional and paranoid. The lawyer said he would have his client examined by a psychiatrist, and depending upon the results of that examination, make a decision as to whether he would plead his client legally insane.

     In October 2010, attorney Reed informed the court that he planned to put on an insanity defense. The judge set the trial for June 2011.

     By 2013, due to several postponements, the Montague case had not come to trial. At a preliminary hearing on December 6, 2013, attorney Reed put a Reno, Nevada psychiatrist named Dr. Tom Bittker on the stand. Dr. Bittker said that several interviews of Montague had given him a profile of this disturbed man's life. For example, as a child, Montague had been beaten, raped and emotionally tormented by his drug-abusing parents. At age six someone murdered the boy's father.

     According to Dr. Bittker, Harold didn't go beyond the fifth grade and grew up in and out of a Las Vegas juvenile detention center. As an adult he married Erricca, and fathered two children with her. She worked out of the house while he stayed at home, unable to hold down a job. In 2004, he began taking care of Erricca's mother.

     Dr. Bittker testified that in his expert medical opinion, when Mr. Montague attacked Monica O'Dazier, Sonia Castro and little Damian, he was in the midst of a psychotic episode that included the delusion that God was speaking to him directly.

     Erricca Montague took the stand at the hearing and testified that for several days before the attacks her husband's behavior had been bizarre. He hadn't slept for days, stopped eating and refused to drink water. He spent his nights pacing the house and talking to himself.

     Following the preliminary hearing, the judge ruled that the defense had produced enough evidence to go forward with an insanity defense. (In Nevada as in most states, legal insanity is a so-called affirmative defense which means the defendant has the burden of proving, with a preponderance of evidence, that the defendant was insane at the time of the alleged criminal act.)

     On May 22, 2014, the Montague case came to an abrupt conclusion when attorney Reed announced that his client had pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and battery of a police officer. Under the plea agreement the defendant was sentenced on July 30, 2014 to life in prison without the chance of parole. In prison he would receive treatment for his mental illness.

     The plea agreement meant that Sonia Castro would not have to testify at Montague's trial. Earlier, at a April 2010 preliminary hearing, she had testified that when she begged him to stop his murderous assault, he laughed at her. After the rampage her jaw had to be surgically reattached. The attack had also left her with an irreparably damaged eye.

     Montague's guilty plea also spared eyewitness Teresa Garner from the ordeal of re-living the crime in court. After Montague's ax-wielding madness, Garner suffered a nervous breakdown.

     Harold Montague, on anti-psychotic medication, expressed a desire to apologize to his victims and to explain that he had acted out of a psychotic delusion. I doubt that his apology and explanation helped his victims, people who had been permanently scarred physically and emotionally as a result of his bloody rampage.

5 comments:

  1. Just a word for the ladies : if your husband doesn't sleep,eat or drink for days, please, please get him psychiatrist help!! This is some of the most horrendous assaults that can happen to any human being. The worst part is that it was completely preventable. Recognize the symptoms of mental health issues and get help.




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    1. Good old victim blaming rears its ugly head again.

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    2. The problem was that there wasn't any signs. She didn't know. He was also investigated in the disappearence of his sister some time prior.

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  2. Just out of interest: who keeps a medieval ax hanging on their wall? Whatever happened to flying ducks?

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  3. I knew them. I babysat for them. They had a daughter too. She was 12 at the time.... It wasn't Erica's mother it was her sister. Everything else is correct. The boys were locked in the bathroom. There was blood everywhere. It was fucking horrific.

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