Feds indict Chastain Montgomery and his son in Henning post office killings
Chastain Montgomery is a former state corrections officer whose grandfather was the first black mayor of Henning and best friend of "Roots" author Alex Haley.
But now, following a bizarre series of events last week, the 47-year-old Montgomery was indicted Thursday on charges that he and his teenage son were responsible for the shooting deaths of two postal employees last October in Henning.
Flanked by federal, state and local law enforcement officers at a news conference in the federal building, U.S. Atty. Ed Stanton called the killings of Paula Robinson and Judy Spray "cold, calculated, unspeakable acts of violence."
The six-count indictment says Montgomery and his 18-year-old son robbed the post office on Oct. 18 and then shot the two women to death.
The charges of killing federal employees carry punishment of up to death.
Montgomery, who is from LaVergne, Tenn., placed himself in the center of an intense five-month investigation when he bolted through police crime-scene tape on Monday Feb. 14 in Mason where his fugitive son had just been killed in a shootout with police.
Chastain Montgomery Jr., 18, was killed after authorities said he carjacked a man in Nashville earlier that morning and then led officers on a two-county chase that ended at U.S. 70 and Tenn. 59.
Authorities said the younger Montgomery got out of the vehicle brandishing two guns and began firing at officers.
They returned fire and killed Montgomery, who also was wanted on attempted murder charges stemming from the Jan. 4 shooting of a 17-year-old acquaintance in Nashville.
As officers conducted their on-site investigation last week in Mason, the elder Montgomery bolted through crime-scene tape and tried to enter the stolen vehicle that had been left running.
When officers wrestled him to the ground and arrested him, they found dye-stained money on both Montgomery and his deceased son.
The money, totaling more than $1,000, had been stolen from a bank, according to court documents in Tipton County.
The elder Montgomery, who also had worked as a youth services officer for the Department of Children's Services, faces state charges of theft of property, tampering with evidence, harboring a fugitive and resisting arrest.
Stanton would not comment Thursday on reports circulating at the scene last week that Montgomery implicated himself in the post office killings and that one of the weapons found on his dead son had been used in those killings.
"This is a fast-moving train as this indictment was just returned this afternoon," Stanton said. "The investigators have been working tirelessly on this case since October."
He would not comment on whether only one or both of the Montgomerys fired their weapons.
"All six counts of the indictment allege that Chastain Montgomery Jr. aided and abetted his father in each of these unspeakable acts of violence," Stanton said.
Robinson, 33, was a retail clerk at the post office, and Spray, 59, was a rural letter carrier.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent John Mehr said the victims' families "have suffered terribly" and that he and other law enforcement officers hope the indictment and prosecution of Montgomery will bring them justice and closure.
Montgomery's grandfather, Fred Montgomery Jr., was elected in 1988 as the first black mayor of Henning at age 71. He also was a lifelong friend and frequent traveling companion of author Alex Haley, who died in 1992. For many years, Fred Montgomery served as a curator and tour guide at the Alex Haley Museum in Henning.
He died in 2006 at age 89.
The federal grand jury indictment against Chastain Montgomery includes:
Counts 1-2: Killing employees of the United States (life in prison or death).
Count 3: Robbery with a dangerous weapon (not more than 25 years in prison).
Count 4: Using a firearm to commit a crime of violence (10 years to life).
Counts 5-6: Causing deaths of Paula Robinson and Judy Spray by use of a firearm (life in prison or death).