By Emily Williams-Robertshaw
In the words of Haruki Murakami, “Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.”
On Dec. 1, 2019, Megan Montgomery was shot and killed at the age of 31 by her estranged husband, former Hoover police officer Jason McIntosh. She was a victim of domestic violence.
Yet Montgomery’s personal mission to help those in need lives on as her friends and family make it their mission to continue her legacy.
Montgomery’s family has joined forces with Community Fund of Greater Birmingham to establish the Megan Montgomery Domestic Violence Prevention Fund. The fund will provide grants to area nonprofits to help educate students in high school and college to stop domestic violence before it happens.
“Megan wanted to share her experience with other women to let them know the warning signs that predators use to trap a woman in an abusive relationship, but she was silenced before she could do that,” Montgomery’s mother, Susann Montgomery-Clark, said at a March 31 press conference. “So, we will do it for her. She is not silenced now.”
At the press conference, it was announced that McIntosh had entered a plea of guilty at a reduced charge of murder and been sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Both Montgomery’s father, Johnny Montgomery, and stepfather, Rod Clark, made a point to state that it was a favorable outcome.
Johnny Montgomery had been down the alternate road. His mother was murdered in 1977.
“Going through a murder trial, nobody wins,” Johnny Montgomery said.
Clark said the plea bargain not only assured a solid conviction and admission of guilt, but it saved the family the grief of trial and the potential of appeals.
“No sentence will ever bring our precious Megan back to us,” Clark said. “The worst sentence in the world would not alleviate our pain of missing her every day for the rest of our lives.”
While McIntosh won’t likely serve a full 30 years, Clark noted that it is probable he will not be considered for parole before his 24th year served.
Spreading Megan’s Message
With the closure of legal proceedings, a door opened to begin fulfilling Montgomery’s mission to help victims of domestic violence.
“We’ll be collaborating with UAB Wellness Department, who has an excellent track record of educating their students on these issues,” Montgomery-Clark said.
During the press conference, she said that it is faith that has sustained the family through this tragedy. It is that same faith that has led Montgomery’s family on a mission to “overcome evil with good” in her name.
According to National Domestic Violence Hotline statistics, the highest rates of intimate partner violence occur in women ages 18-24 and 25-34. In both of these age groups, 77% and 76%, respectively, of the female victims had been previously victimized by the same partner.
McIntosh, too, has a history of harming Montgomery, having shot her in the arm during a domestic dispute in March 2019. It was an instance that led to his resignation from the Hoover Police Department.
In addition, the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500%. More than half of women killed by gun violence are killed by family members or intimate partners.
Montgomery-Clark said in a speech given during McIntosh’s plea hearing that Montgomery began dying the day she met McIntosh, on July 23, 2017.
Poetically, she likened her daughter’s demise to that of an unsuspecting amphibian being placed in a pot of water set to boil. She didn’t know what was happening until it was too late and the damage had been done.
“That’s what domestic violence does,” Montgomery-Clark said. “Anyone who met her after their first date didn’t know the real Megan he destroyed long before he killed her.”
For more information and to support Megan’s Fund, visit cfbham.org/megans-fund/.
Montgomery not only wanted to be a voice for victims of domestic violence, she was passionate about animals and was a founding member of the young professional board of the Greater Birmingham Humane Society.
According to board President Lauren Murphy, she was an inspiration to her fellow volunteers.
“Megan was so involved, so sweet, and worked very hard to give a voice to many animals that didn’t have one,” Murphy said.
The board recently collaborated to fund creation of the Megan Montgomery Play Yard at the GBHS Animal Care and Control facility.
“We pooled all of the money together ourselves and we actually helped do a lot of the work,” Murphy said.
The yard features a playground of obstacles created out of tires donated by local companies including McGriff Tire and Service, Lee Rogers Tire Co. in Avondale, Omega Tires and Total Car Care in Homewood.
After Montgomery’s death, the entire GBHS community of staff and volunteers felt the loss and began organizing ways to immortalize her volunteer work and connect her work with animals to her desire to help victims of domestic abuse.
Members of the young professional board were getting ready to host a fundraiser last March, just as COVID-19 lockdowns began. After having to cancel that event, members now are working on plans for an event later this year.
“The big thing that we are trying to support is the Project Pet Safe program,” Murphy said. “It helps house animals in emergency situations.”
The program helped provide safe housing for animals displaced by the March 25 tornadoes and offers housing for pets whose owners are facing issues such as homelessness, hospitalization or financial issues.
“They will also place the pets of people who are in domestic violence situations,” Murphy said.
The GBHS provides all food, shelter and medical care for the animals while their owners recover and secure housing. Once owners and pets are reunited, the organization also provides essentials such as a leash and collar, a litterbox and litter, and food.
Murphy noted that the program doesn’t get a ton of time in the spotlight, and society workers hope to build awareness in Montgomery’s honor. She added that Montgomery’s voice is perhaps louder now than ever before – and certainly is louder than any of the others’ voices individually – and they want to use that to draw the community’s attention to projects inspired by her work and hopes for the humane society.
For more information and updates, visit gbhs.org.