INDIO – Opening statements are scheduled tomorrow in the trial of a 34-year-old Indiana woman accused in the death of her 2-month-old daughter, whose remains were found in an Arkansas storage unit a year after she was killed in Desert Hot Springs.
Krissy Lynn Werntz is charged with one count of murder in the death of her daughter Montana. Her boyfriend and the baby’s father, Jason Michael Hann, was convicted last December of killing Montana and sentenced to death last month.
If convicted, Werntz faces 25 years to life in prison, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
Hann struck Montana in the head, inflicting fatal skull fractures around Feb. 10, 2001, while the family lived in a motor home in Desert Hot Springs. He wrapped her head in duct tape and her body in trash bags and put her in a Tupperware container, which was then put in another trash bag and kept in a trailer in a Arkansas storage unit, Deputy District Attorney Lisa DiMaria said during Hann’s trial.
When Hann and Werntz stopped making payments, the trailer was auctioned off to an Arkansas man, who found the girl’s remains in February 2002. Hann and Werntz were arrested in April 2002 at a motel in Portland, Maine.
The day after they were arrested, police found the remains of another of their children, a boy less than 2 months old, in a plastic container in a storage unit in Arizona. That baby, named Jason, had been killed in July 1999 in Vermont.
In February 2006 in Vermont, Hann pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in the baby’s death and was sentenced to 27-30 years in prison. Werntz wasn’t charged in that case.
Authorities investigating the couple determined that their third child, a month-old boy named Michael, had skull, femur and rib fractures and was on the ”brink of death” when he was found, DiMaria told jurors during Hann’s trial. That boy was later adopted and renamed.
While being questioned, Hann told police that Montana died in Desert Hot Springs. The baby was born in Arizona on Dec. 1, 2000, and the family moved to California about a month later.
According to a sworn declaration in support of an arrest warrant, Werntz told investigators that she returned from work on Feb. 10, 2001, and found Montana dead in the bathtub. She said Hann told her he’d put the child there with a bottle, went outside and found her dead when he returned, Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy Gary LeClair wrote.
”He said he fell with Montana. He then changed his story and said she spit up and choked,” LeClair wrote.
Werntz was ”distraught,” and the couple left Montana at their trailer and stayed at a motel for the night. Hann later decided to keep Montana with them, according to Le Clair.
”Krissy denied having any knowledge of Jason killing and/or hitting Montana. She never witnessed any abuse from Jason and denied abusing her children herself,” LeClair wrote. ”She said neither of them made any effort to call for medical help for Montana. She had no explanation on why two of her children died for unknown reasons while in the care of Jason.”
Hann was in prison for Jason’s death when Vermont law enforcement authorities agreed to extradite him to California to stand trial for Montana’s death. He and Werntz were indicted by a grand jury in September 2009.