The last time Crystal Sorey saw her daughter was on a video call in the spring of 2019. She had an Easter basket ready, but never had the chance to give it to her.
"For over a year," she told the Boston NBC affiliate, "I held on to that."
Speaking out for the first time since authorities launched a search for 7-year-old Harmony Montgomery, Sorey said she had long been "begging for any type of answer." She added, "My daughter was failed by everybody. Everybody."
Harmony, whose father had custody, vanished from her New Hampshire home in 2019. But police said they only learned she was missing late last year. They started searching for the child, who is blind in her right eye and described as four feet tall and 50 pounds, with blond hair, blue eyes and glasses, after her mother reported her missing in November.
The case has attracted widespread attention and raised scrutiny of the state's Division for Children, Youth and Families. After the more than two years in which Harmony's disappearance was not known to authorities, there have been multiple developments recently in the effort to find her. The FBI joined the investigation, the reward for information leaped to more than $90,000, and authorities arrested her father and stepmother.
Adam Montgomery faces charges of second-degree assault, interference with custody and endangering a child's welfare. His wife, Kayla Montgomery, is charged with welfare fraud for allegedly collecting food stamp benefits for Harmony even though the child was no longer living in their home. The two have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Court documents from the case revealed a relative saw the girl with a black eye in July 2019. Harmony's father admitted he "bashed her around this house" after she covered her infant brother's mouth to stop him from crying, his uncle told police.
Investigators spent the weekend searching the Manchester, N.H., house where she once lived, a police spokeswoman told The Washington Post. Television news footage showed patrol cars lined up outside the pale yellow, single-story home, a drone flying overhead. Officers could be seen removing insulation and tarp from the home, the Boston Globe reported.
Sorey, who lost custody of Harmony in 2018 partly because of substance abuse issues, has said Adam and Kayla Montgomery blocked her from contacting her daughter beginning in 2019. Now sober, she said she spent months searching for the two and for her child, contacting several schools and driving to addresses associated with Adam Montgomery.
In November, she contacted police. Officers notified the Division for Children, Youth and Families, which on Dec. 27 responded that it was also unable to locate Harmony, according to court records. The search then expanded, taking on a new urgency.
Sorey lit candles during a Saturday night vigil for Harmony at a New Hampshire park, NBC Boston reported. She told the station she and other attendees "just want her to know how much she's loved." She pleaded for the public's help in finding her child.
Even though it has been two years since she last saw her, Sorey said she has not given up hope.
"A mother knows if her baby's here or not," she said. "So, I know she's here."
Asked what she would tell Harmony if she could speak to her, Sorey was quick to respond: "I want you to know that I never stopped looking for you and I won't stop fighting until I find you. Okay? And you stay strong and mommy's right here fighting for you."