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After boy’s fatal beating, Hillsborough deputy looked in, thought he was asleep

By Jonathan Capriel and Patty Ryan, Times Staff Writers
Published: January 2, 2018 Updated: January 2, 2018 at 08:49 PM
Brice Russell and his three siblings were left in the care of Jack Junior Montgomery while their mother worked. Montgomery was arrested Sunday and charged with killing the 7-year-old boy. [Facebook]




TAMPA — A deputy investigating a child abuse tip early Saturday looked through the doorway of a quiet Seffner motel room to see a bed full of children who appeared to be asleep.

Their mother’s boyfriend, Jack Junior Montgomery, gave assurances that everything was fine. The deputy left, unaware that 7-year-old Brice Russell was unconscious after a fatal beating, according to court records.

Montgomery, now charged with murder, didn’t call paramedics for nearly 10 hours and by then, nothing could be done.

Those details came to light in court documents filed Tuesday in the state’s criminal case against Montgomery, 31, who was watching the children from about 5:30 p.m. Friday while their mother worked overnight.

Donya Shenita Russell, 28, had been evicted in November from a Riverview apartment, records show. The family was staying at the Master’s Inn, 6010 County Road 579.

On Friday night or early Saturday, Brice’s siblings awoke to thumping noises and the sound of him crying, they later told detectives. They said Montgomery punched Brice in the face and abdomen and ordered them to hit him, too. One boy said Montgomery picked up Brice and hurled him into a cabinet "so high he hit the cabinet, fell to the ground, and never woke back up," the affidavit said. The boy said blood came out of Brice’s mouth and nose.

Afterward, Montgomery washed Brice’s face and placed him in bed with his siblings, the report said.

A guest in a nearby room walked to the motel office and reported hearing loud yelling coming from room 205. The guest said an adult male shouted "beat the kid" and "push the kid over here," according to a criminal affidavit.

A motel employee called 911 at 12:32 a.m. Saturday to ask for a welfare check.

Deputy Trevor Adams arrived about 1 a.m.

Montgomery answered the door and pushed it open enough so that the deputy could see the back bed, the report said. The room was quiet. The children appeared to be asleep.

He told the deputy the noise had been from music.

"Deputy Adams did not enter the room at that time and cleared the call with no further investigation," the report said.

It’s unclear whether Brice might still have been alive when Adams looked in.

"We are currently reviewing the circumstances that occurred that night, and all of that is part of the investigation," said sheriff’s spokesman Danny Alvarez.

Morning came. Just after 10 a.m., Dana Stewart, 52, who has been staying at the motel for about a month, said he left his own room to smoke a cigarette. Stewart said he saw Montgomery and two stoic-looking boys sitting on a staircase leading to the second floor.

About 15 minutes later, Montgomery knocked on Stewart’s door. Montgomery said Brice wasn’t breathing and asked to borrow Stewart’s cellphone.

"He said the kids were rough housing the night before," Stewart said. "He was talking normal and calm. I’ve got kids, and I wouldn’t be calm if one of them stopped breathing."

Stewart followed Montgomery into the hotel room and saw a motionless child on the floor, Stewart said. Montgomery got CPR instructions on the phone.

"He was pumping on the kids chest and blood kept coming out," Stewart said.

Montgomery later told detectives that he had picked up Brice and had thrown him on the bed for getting up to get a cookie. Montgomery is 6-foot-2 and 270 pounds. He said Brice’s head hit a headboard, but that he had rubbed the boy’s head and he seemed okay.

Brice’s body was cold and rigid by the time paramedics were summoned. They took the child into an ambulance, but the ambulance never left the motel parking lot, Stewart said.

The Department of Children and Families had prior involvement with the family but there were no open investigations.

"The death of this child is sickening and we are appalled that someone would treat children this way," DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said in a statement. "DCF will continue to work with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office as they investigate this tragedy and hold those responsible for his death accountable. We will support Brice’s family as they grieve his loss."

Montgomery was charged with domestic battery in May 2006. Police said he punched a roommate twice in the eye while the victim was sleeping. Montgomery pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge.

In 2007, he was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. At the time, police said he was yelling at family members outside and challenged a person to a fight while an officer was present.

Senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Jonathan Capriel at (813) 226-3141 or [email protected]