Police: suspect, victim in Cleveland murder were childhood friends
CLEVELAND, BRADLEY COUNTY -
(WRCB) - James Montgomery insists that his son Harold was too street smart---from years of selling drugs, gay prostitution and doing time for both--to die the way police say Russell Brown confessed to the killing.
"There was an argument that night and unfortunately Mr. Brown got a knife and stabbed him several times," Cleveland Police Public Information Officer Evie West says.
"I think they got the upper hand on him, and there was more than one involved," Montgomery says. "Stabbed in his face and hands, the way I understood it. Somebody else had to (be the person to)stab him in the back of the head."
"According to him (Brown) and the other witnesses involved, there were no other persons inside the motel room," Officer West says.
Montgomery, and his son's friend, Jesse Grissom, know that the incident at the Days Inn came in as a fire call just after 7:30AM New Year's Day. Firefighters found Harold Montgomery's body only after dousing a mattress found in Room #117.
But they can't buy Brown's reported confession; that he and Montgomery were childhood friends and frequent sex partners for the past fifteen years, who'd gotten together for a tryst New Year's Eve.
In the last eight months to a year, he'd been straightening himself out," Grissom says. "He was gaining weight. He'd gotten a job; he was working all the time."
Turning his life around enough, Grissom adds, that he was about to open his own antiques shop. So how did he come to wind up at the Days Inn, with what Grissom and Montgomery's father believe, was $1700 in his purse?
"He (Brown) had told us that they'd gotten together and a party, and then had agreed to a sexual encounter on New Year's Eve night," Ofc. West says.
Police confirm that Montgomery had paid for the room and signed the guest registry. Officers arrested Brown just after midnight Monday at the home of his uncle, a retired Deputy with the Bradley County Sheriff's Department. Brown had called police to surrender, Ofc. West says.
"He (Brown) admitted stabbing Mr. Montgomery with a knife that was on the motel room nightstand," Ofc. West says.
"He said that he was very remorseful, that he had killed his childhood friend, and that he was very sad about that."
Grissom and James Montgomery maintain that Harold Montgomery's killing is more than a case of Russell Brown losing his temper.
"Over a little bit of money is probably what it was over," Grissom says.
"It was planned probably before he ever killed Harold--to burn him and leave no evidence," Montgomery says.
"Somebody had to help him do it. Can the law prove that? That's the $64 question."
As of Monday evening, police still were trying to recover Montgomery's car, a 1995 black Volkswagen Cabriolet they say Brown stole to flee the crime scene.
"Mr. Brown is charged with aggravated arson," Ofc. West says. "We expect to add a murder charge once the preliminary autopsy tells us whether Mr. Montgomery died of the stabbing or smoke inhalation."
Brown is being held without bond.
Besides his father, Montgomery's survivors include his mother, brother, two sisters and a 16-year-old son from an earlier marriage.
Brown is charged with aggravated arson. A murder count is pending the results of Montgomery's autopsy.