Toddler Wanders From House for a Fifth Time, Dies After Getting Hit by Cars

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
March 1, 2019US News
Toddler Wanders From House for a Fifth Time, Dies After Getting Hit by Cars
Zayden in an undated file photo. (Zayden's Funeral/GoFundMe)

A Utah man was arrested and charged with child abuse homicide after a toddler in his care escaped from a house and walked onto a busy road before being struck by two different cars.

Zayden, 2, died in January.

Michael Montgomery, 73, was arrested for child abuse homicide for the incident in Grantsville, reported Fox 13.

Zayden lived at a house with his mother. Police went to the house multiple times in the year leading up to the death.

In January 2018, officers went to the home after he was found walking on the road, which has a 55 mile-per-hour limit, alone.

The boy’s mother said she was smoking and left the boy with Montgomery when the child got out and made it to the road. She promised police and Department of Children and Family Services that she’d take certain steps to try to make sure a similar incident didn’t happen in the future.

In September 2018, a sheriff deputy responded after a driver found the boy walking in the middle of the same road.

The boy’s mother said that she had left Zayden in the care of Montgomery again; Montgomery said he was using a computer and hadn’t noticed the boy leave.

The next month, another driver spotted the boy walking alone on the road. Montgomery met a deputy and retrieved the boy. Montgomery said he hadn’t noticed the boy missing for a while.

Montgomery came out of the house after several minutes, “spanked him ‘hard,’ threw the child in the stroller, and took him back into the house,” according to charging documents obtained by KSL.

The day after Christmas, a deputy was dispatched to the area after a driver spotted the boy in the road alone. He was nearly hit by multiple drivers. Montgomery said he was in his shop and the boy escaped while he was there.

On Jan. 15, the boy escaped through a dog door after Montgomery told officers he fell asleep. The dog door had a padlock but Montgomery hadn’t secured it.

“The defendant stated that when he woke up, the victim was gone,” the charges state. “When asked how the victim escaped from the home, the defendant responded that the victim must have got out through the dog door.”

Prosecutors said that Montgomery acted with criminal negligence, failing to secure the door and not taking steps after the boy escaped multiple times before he was hit and killed.

police car siren
A police car in a file photo. (Mira Oberman/AFP/Getty Images)

“Based on the totality of the circumstances, the defendant acted with criminal negligence when he did not take the time to lock the dog door. Over the last several months, the victim had escaped from the home multiple times and ended up on the road. This was a fact that the defendant knew and observed,” prosecutors wrote in the charging documents.

“Because the defendant knew that there was a substantial likelihood that the victim would try to escape and the defendant knew that when the victim escaped he liked to go to the road where the speed limit is 55 mph, the defendant ought to have been aware of the substantial and unjustifiable risk that the victim would be struck by a car and killed,” prosecutors added.

According to authorities, Montgomery’s son was dating Zayden’s mother and all of them lived in Montgomery’s house. Zayden referred to Montgomery as “Grandpa.”

“It’s awful that this child had loved ones,” Robert Clegg, deputy attorney for Tooele County, told Fox. “It’s awful that their negligence caused this child’s death.”

Montgomery is scheduled to appear in court on March 17.

The boy’s mother was charged on Jan. 15 before Zayden died with child abuse for the incident in December. The next hearing for that case is slated for March 6.

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