Published November 27, 2007
BUFFALO, N.Y. – A 48-year-old man entangled in an Internet love triangle built largely on lies was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for killing his rival for the affection of a woman he had never met.
Thomas Montgomery, who posed as an 18-year-old Marine in online chats, pleaded guilty in August to gunning down Brian Barrett, 22, in a parking lot at the suburban Buffalo factory where they worked.
The motive was jealousy, investigators said. Both were involved online with a middle-aged West Virginia mother — who herself was posing as an 18-year-old student.
Prosecutor Frank Sedita argued for the maximum sentence of 25 years, describing Montgomery's "almost predatory" pursuit of the woman and his resentment of Barrett when she cooled to Montgomery's advances after 1 1/2 years and thousands of pages of Internet chats.
"The chats reveal an obsessive desire to make Brian Barrett suffer," Sedita said.
Barrett, a college student who aspired to be an industrial arts teacher, was shot three times at close range after climbing into his truck at the end of a shift at Dynabrade in Clarence on Sept. 15, 2006. His body was found two days later by a co-worker.
"My wife and I don't understand how this could happen, how such evil could walk the Earth," Barrett's father, Daniel, said at the sentencing hearing. "To gun down a boy over simple jealousy does not make sense to us."
Montgomery's lawyer said fantasy and reality blurred for the then-married father of two teenage daughters, who was involved in his church and was president of his daughters' swim club.
"Until September 2006, this was a man who held his head high," attorney John Nuchereno said. "By September 2006 — call it an obsession, call it an addiction, call it what you want — he was suffering from a diminished capacity of some sort."
Montgomery, now divorced, attempted suicide in his jail cell after his arrest. He chose not to speak at his sentencing.
Montgomery began chatting with the woman, identified in court as Mary Sheiler, in 2005. Occasionally, the woman would mail packages to his home. When one of the packages was intercepted by Montgomery's wife, she wrote back, telling Sheiler her husband's true age and saying he was married.
Barrett, whom Montgomery had mentioned in his exchanges, was drawn into the triangle after the woman contacted him online to confirm what she had been told by Montgomery's wife.
Justice Penny Wolfgang called the situation a "consequence of misuse of the Internet."