TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - Describing his best friend, John-Michael Criswell said with a smile, “she carried a light I don’t think I’ve ever seen in another human being.”
Criswell met Megan Montgomery when he was 18 and a freshman at Belmont University in Nashville.
"This weird, amazing person who marched to the beat of her own drum and would not judge and loved everyone came into my life, and it was Megan,” said Criswell.
Since college, the two kept in touch, making sure to meet up when he was back in town. Criswell said they had tentative plans to visit over Thanksgiving, even sharing on social media Saturday night, the last night Montgomery was seen alive.
“She was at an Iron Bowl party and it seemed like she was the Megan I knew - that light in the room,” said Criswell.
That light, Criswell said, had dimmed over the last several months.
"There was a change in Megan that seemed to, you know, coincide with a relationship," said Criswell.
The relationship was her marriage to Jason McIntosh, Criswell explained. The Montgomery he loved was hidden as Criswell said she tried to hide abuse.
The problems in Montgomery and McIntosh's relationship became public in February. Montgomery was shot in the arm by McIntosh. There were no charges after that incident.
According to Lynneice Washington, District Attorney-Bessemer, “ALEA conducted the investigation and presented their findings to my office. The physical evidence did not reflect Mr. McIntosh as the aggressor, and they both stated that there was a struggle over the gun. However, the evidence was not clear enough to determined what happened during the struggle and Ms. Montgomery was not very helpful in the development of said case. Although there was not enough information to proceed on a felony warrant, misdemeanor DV charges were recommended to be pursued with the City of Hoover Municipal Court. My office took no further action at that time.”
"I know what she's told me and what she told her friends, which was that there was this level of fear that she experienced," said Criswell. "His friends, his best friends were there for him and she didn't feel like those people who are meant to protect her could be there for her without some sort of a bias happening."
McIntosh resigned from Hoover Police in March. Two months later, he was charged by Hoover Police with domestic violence. At the time, officers said there was an argument between McIntosh and his wife that escalated into a physical dispute. Montgomery did have some injuries but refused medical treatment, according to Hoover Police.
Prior to working for Hoover Police, McIntosh worked for Mountain Brook Police and the Birmingham Police Department. He went through the police academy in Birmingham, according to a department spokesman, and served with the department for "4-5 months." From Birmingham, McIntosh worked in Mountain Brook from 1997-1999, according to Chief Ted Cook.
WBRC FOX6 News has found no evidence McIntosh was given preferential treatment in any of the domestic incidents reported. His attorney, Tommy Spina, released a statement saying, “To me this case stands for the proposition that domestic violence is a real societal problem that is gender neutral and needs to be addressed in any relationship at the first sign of aggression by either party. Death should not be the result of a relationship gone bad. This I all very sad but also very real.”
Criswell believes his friend.
"She didn’t really know what to do other than the things that you’re told to do which is leave, file a restraining order, file for divorce. And she did all of those things and none of those things could protect her from what happened,” said Criswell.
He said the last time they talked, Montgomery shared details about abuse she said she endured and her plans to write a book. She said her experience made her consider law school. She wanted to help others, Criswell said, but never got the chance.
"It’s because there was a story that we were going to tell. It was her story to tell and if she would have had that chance, she could have helped… no telling how many people. But because that chance was taken away, it’s up to us to tell her story,” said Criswell.
He added, "It's my responsibility as her friend, as someone who loved her to the ends of earth, it's what I have to do."
McIntosh has not been charged in Montgomery's homicide but Chief Cook expects to have a warrant Wednesday morning.
Chief Cook confirmed Montgomery was seen leaving Courtyard 280 Saturday night with McIntosh. Officers have not released what happened after they left the restaurant and when Montgomery’s body was found early Sunday morning.