The Evidence Whisperer: Larry Mongtomery

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The Evidence Whisperer: Larry Mongtomery
Rickett & Sones

If you are a killer who has eluded arrest, the two sentences you never want to hear are: "Hi, I'm Larry Montgomery, and I'm a cold-case investigator in the Orange County district attorney's office. You don't know it, but I've been studying you for several years."

Montgomery is so exceptional at cracking cases previously deemed unsolvable that Dateline NBC's Josh Mankiewicz hailed him as "The Evidence Whisperer." Mankiewicz tells us part of Montgomery's mystique is that "he looks like a high-school history teacher or something—not the guy who's going to lock you up."

Though tall and fit, it's true that this investigator—who began his career in 1974 as a reserve Costa Mesa cop, spent three decades with the Irvine Police Department and the past seven years at the DA's office—doesn't employ physical intimidation. He's mild-mannered and polite. He abhors police brutality as well as warped individuals who want state-issued badges for the wrong reasons. If some cops are anxious to make arrests in a statistical game, he views his job as a search "to find the truth."

Matt Murphy, one of the county's elite prosecutors, is effusive in his praise. "I love the guy," says Murphy. "He's the best."

Even defense lawyers marvel at his talents. Gary Pohlson, for example, called him "Saint Larry" in 2011. At that moment, the detective was helping to convict Pohlson client Eric Naposki, an ex-New England Patriots player, for a 1994 murder of a Newport Beach businessman.

Montgomery cringes when spotlighted. He explains that, unlike many homicide detectives who have large case loads and enormous deadline pressures, he can spend years on a single probe. "It's voluminous to get your head around an entire case," he says. "I get the time to look at everything."

The detective's m.o. that has put nearly two-dozen killers in prison is simple but arduous. He begins investigations by creating a file in his MacBook and taking hundreds of pages of detailed, color-coded notes as he chronologically reviews every piece of information in a murder. And then he thinks and thinks and thinks.

"The recorded interviews [with a suspect near the time of the crime] are where you find the truth," says Montgomery. "I listen to interviews—listen to every single word and how it's spoken­—with two major points of view: 'What is my mindset if I'm innocent?' 'What is my mindset if I'm guilty?' The more I know about that person, the more I can put myself in that position."

The 2001 disappearance of Placentia's Lynsie Ekelund went unsolved until Montgomery took the case. Cops considered several suspects, including Chris McAmis, an Ekelund acquaintance. But officers ruled him out after bank-surveillance footage of an adjacent road supported McAmis' alibi that he'd driven away from the area in his truck. Montgomery reviewed the grainy, black-and-white, nighttime footage and saw a tiny detail overlooked for years. The vehicles were identical except that McAmis' truck had white paint on its side-mirror covers; the ones on the truck in the video were black.

Montgomery also pondered an email McAmis sent to Ekelund after her disappearance. He says the first line—telling an inside joke to the woman—was brilliantly deceptive. But the ruse of innocence collapsed in later paragraphs. After comparing McAmis' original interviews and the email, he knew the man was guilty.

"I'm looking for discrepancies," says Montgomery, who helped send the murderer to prison in 2012. "If a person is telling the truth, he lived it, and all five of his senses were active. A truthful person is more accurate. What does a guilty person say to cops? He wants to appear innocent, so he will say and do things to appear so. The killer has to lie."

 
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5 comments
spencertown123
spencertown123

Wish you would look into Eric Naposki case! We convicted this man on a conspiracy theory with absolutely NO hard evidence placing him at the house, in the house, pulling the trigger.  We've released more murderers on lesser evidence.  I'm disgusted with the system. We have convicted people for murder in the past with "eye witnesses " statements only and NO REAL Hard evidence, other then a missing gun, which was also available to the ex with a lust for rich men, manipulation and greed. Yet we convicted her boyfriend for entering the house? Pulling the trigger? 17 years later? Where is the reasonable doubt? I've written down license plates numbers in the past for my own personal reason. So would I be convicted of murder? Could he have written down the plate number to perhaps plan to investigate his ex's story that he was starting to not believe? Question is ..it possible? YES...reasonable doubt, but we want to say YES he MUST have done it. Disgusting. Where is the shoe prints, DNA??? in the victims house? anything?? NO, 17 years later we take away a father from a family whose only guilt was to get himself with a woman she devil. All I hear is "Could Have, Should Have, Would Have..." where's the Evidence???


fixithair
fixithair

Was he one of the detectives from the DA's office that early one morning came knocking on my window screaming, "DA's office investigation!"  I'm a registered sex offender that has received a US Congressional award for community service for helping cancer patients and the homeless, but 14 years ago was convicted of a misdemeanor not involving a child.  As a hairstylist I find it interesting the DA's office somehow finds it's okay for a sex offender registrant to work alone with women in a salon environment.  After therapy, probation and time served of course I'm not a threat but then why have me register?  

Toejam
Toejam

Please write a book Larry. So many of the skills that you use to solve cold cases are useful in everyday life. Courses like "How to spot a liar",  "How to spot a sociopath", "How to spot a con artist" should be taught in high school. Larry has already told us the most important skill that he uses to solves these cases...he LISTENS.

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

Larry Montgomery is a true philanthropist. My faith in humanity is restored a little.

Thank you, Mr. Moxley

PS I believe the last name is misspelled in the headline (one good turn deserves another).


rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@Toejam You are so right. Larry has mastered his craft and can teach everyone many lessons about human nature. In my view, he is one of Orange County's most valuable public employees.

 
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