- Our Town
Vegas man pleads guilty in fatal 2010 axe attack
By Ken Ritter, The Associated Press
LAS VEGAS - A Las Vegas man who pleaded guilty but mentally insane wants to apologize and explain his delusions when he's sentenced to life in prison for hacking a 4-month-old baby in a stroller to death with a medieval-style battle axe and critically wounding the child's mother, his attorney said Friday.
Harold Eugene Montague's public defence lawyer, Norm Reed, said he hoped the apology and explanation bring closure to the victims, neighbours and first-responders traumatized by the random attack on a normally quiet downtown Las Vegas residential street more than four years ago.
"It will be important for everyone involved to hear Harold's account," Reed told The Associated Press. "The story he tells is a delusional story. It's been gut-wrenching for everybody."
Montague, 38, pleaded guilty Thursday in Clark County District Court to first-degree murder with a deadly weapon, two counts of attempted murder and battery on a police officer.
The plea deal with prosecutors means Montague won't face trial or the death penalty, but will be imprisoned with no chance of parole.
Prosecutor Giancarlo Pesci didn't immediately respond Friday to messages. Sentencing is scheduled July 30.
"Nobody would be comfortable with Harold getting out of prison," Reed said, "but I don't think executing him is appropriate either. That's why we came to this conclusion."
The plea deal also means that Sonia Lisset Castro won't have to testify again about hearing her attacker laugh and mock her as she pleaded for him to stop attacking her and her child, Damian Avila Castro.
Castro testified at a preliminary hearing in April 2010 that her face was split open and her jaw had to be surgically reattached after the February 2010 attack. She said her right eye was irreparably damaged.
Her son's overturned stroller was left next to a bloody stain in the street.
Montague also stabbed his profoundly disabled sister-in-law, Monica O'Dazier, some 20 times inside their home before bursting outside and attacking Castro and her son, police said. O'Dazier was treated for her injuries and survived.
A neighbour who witnessed the attack, dialed 911 and helped Castro once police subdued Montague, testified through tears that the incident caused her to suffer an emotional breakdown. She said she spent seven days in psychiatric care.
On the emergency call, which was played in court, the neighbour is heard shrieking, "Oh my God! Her face is split open where he hit her with the hatchet!"
Montague told police he had no memory of the attacks.
His wife, Erricca Montague, testified that the attack weapon used to hang on the wall of their home. She said her husband sometimes smoked marijuana but didn't take other drugs and never drank alcohol. She testified she hadn't felt her husband was a danger to her, their three children or her disabled sister. But he also hadn't been eating and spent several sleepless nights pacing the floor before the attack.
Reed and defence lawyer Andrea Luem never sought a mental evaluation or challenged Montague's fitness for trial.
"Competency and mental illness are two different things," Reed said. "He understands the charges against him and is able to aid in his defence. With Harold it's mental illness."
"It would be impossible for us to say Harold would be fine if he was released," the defence attorney said.