Man accused of killing stepson could face death penalty

A Hillsborough County stepfather who is facing charges of child abuse and murder could also face the death penalty.

Jack Montgomery had his first appearance hearing Monday morning after investigators say he brutally beat a 7-year-old to death. He's being held on a total of $870,000 bond.

The judge agreed with prosecutors who argued the details of this case and Montgomery’s past domestic violence issues were too much to ignore.

“This is a case based just legally that Mr. Montgomery is looking at the death penalty,” said prosecutor Matthew Smith with the State Attorney’s Office. “He was taking care of those four children while the mother was out working a double shift.”

Officials say Montgomery was babysitting the four kids at the Masters Inn hotel in Seffner, where the family was staying. Early Saturday morning, they believe Montgomery started punching his stepson, Brice Russell, and throwing him into furniture in the room.

When talking with investigators, Montgomery admitted to disciplining the child because he tried sneaking out of bed for a cookie, but claims he threw him on the bed and that the child was alive when he went to sleep.

Prosecutors, though, aren’t buying his story.

“He chose to not only physically discipline this child himself repeatedly by punching and throwing him on the ground, but threatening bodily harm upon the two brothers if they did not partake and equally discipline him,” said Smith.

According to an affidavit, the other children witnessed the alleged abuse. Prosecutors say Montgomery put Brice in bed and had the other children lay with him, but officials believe the child was dead by that time.

“Mr. Montgomery took the child put him in bed and had the siblings sleep with him while Brice was dead the entire night,” he said.

A judge disagreed with Montgomery’s attorney, who asked for a bond no more than $20,000 on his murder charge, and instead gave him a bond of $750,000. Prosecutors say his criminal past, which includes domestic violence, should play a role in whether Montgomery should walk free before his trial.