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On 5-year anniversary of disappearance, a Magna family still in 'limbo'

Published September 24, 2012 12:02 pm

Five years after Lark Montague vanished, her family and her case seem to linger in limbo.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Magna •Â Dennis Montague stares out his kitchen window toward the Oquirrh Mountains. His lip trembles and the afternoon sun makes the tears in his blue eyes glisten as he contemplates that day five years ago, and all the days after that.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about it," said the retired Kennecott worker. "You just don't fall off the face of the earth."

And yet, for him, it feels as though the woman he loved has done just that.

On Sept. 21, 2007, Montague was in bed reading, waiting for an Ambien to kick in and sleep to come to him. It was about 9 p.m., and his wife, Lark Montague, paced in the hallway of their home.

Whenever Lark had a drink her family could tell, and she'd been drinking more of late. Dennis found the bottles of Jägermeister hidden under the bed and in the closet. She'd been taking prescription pills, too. It was the one thing they seemed to fight about.

Lark waited for Dennis to fall asleep and then drove to a neighbor's house a short distance away to party. According to reports, she stayed there drinking until about 3 a.m.

When she left the house, the neighbor followed her home in another car. The man said he watched Lark pull into her driveway, but as he drove away, he saw her backing out in the 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer. She apparently hit the chain-link fence; her family found pieces of a busted taillight on the ground there the next day.

Dennis' son woke him up about 6 the next morning.

"Mom's not home yet," he said.

Dennis started that day searching nearby bars for the Chevy. There have been fliers distributed in Utah, Wyoming, Texas and Nevada; magnets with her photo and information left on cars; search parties and hikes up nearby canyons looking for some sign of the woman, who was 55 when she disappeared.

He later hoped she'd left to see family in Texas without telling anyone. He's been angry thinking she ran off with another man. But he took and passed a polygraph.

"I've had millions of things run through my mind," he said this week.

Most recently, he's come to believe that she has died.

Search, life goes on • In five years there have been only a handful of reported sightings, and none of the tips panned out. There was a bartender in Tooele who said a woman matching Lark's description was in the bar drinking Bud Light and a sidecar of Jägermeister — her usual order. There was someone who said they saw her at a Mexican restaurant in Magna.

"We've had several tips over the years," Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said last week. "Some of them we're still looking into, but we really haven't had any big changes."

Lark never "took so much as a pair of panties" the night she left, her husband said. She never swiped a credit card or filled her prescriptions for depression and type II diabetes.

All she had was a white leather purse Dennis had given her. A detective came by the Montagues' home a few months back with a purse he thought might be hers, but Dennis just shook his head.

Lark didn't have a job outside of the home. She was the guardian of three grandchildren, and she received money from her daughter for caring for them. "She could have been stashing money," her husband said.

But her grandchildren are one of the reasons Dennis suspects foul play, and that his wife of 23 years is dead.

No matter what happened, there should be some information by now, he said. But police have never even found the missing Blazer.

On a recent afternoon, Brittany Montague, the couple's 29-year-old daughter, sat at her father's kitchen table, flipping through old photo albums. Her 3-year-old daughter, Reese, sat on her lap, playing with rubber ducks, kissing their beaks together and giggling. The child never knew her grandmother.

Brittany's son, Gavin, is 8 and he remembers how the woman who doted over him would give him sips of Diet Coke against his mother's wishes, but little else. He misses her, he says, but he can't quite explain why it makes him sad to talk about it.

Brittany says she tries not to think about her mother's disappearance.

"Your life has to go on," she said, as she looked at her young children.

'We're in limbo' • When Lark first disappeared, the phone seemed to always be ringing. There were search groups, police, psychics offering help.

Dennis listened to all of them. There was a woman who said she felt Lark was with two men and she wasn't happy. He dutifully passed the tip on to detectives.

After his son, Dennis Jr., died of a drug overdose in 2008, just months after Lark's disappearance, Dennis and Brittany went to see John Edward at the Capitol Theater. The self-described "psychic medium" picked him out of the crowd.

"My boy came through. He said his mother hadn't crossed over," Dennis said. Afterward, he said, the encounter left him with little encouragement.

"I was a 95 percent skeptic," he said. "But you've always got that little hope."

More and more, however, that hope has left him.

He has divorced Lark, citing abandonment, and taken her off the health and car insurance.

He kept her clothes for years, before giving them to a daughter she had from a previous marriage. Now all he has are some pajamas, a shirt, and a slipper in a plastic bag. They're for the cadaver dogs if they ever need them.

"We've coped with it. I'd just like to put closure to it," Dennis said. "We're in limbo."

Dennis Montague sipped a glass of wine and looked out his kitchen window, toward the end of the driveway where a post in the chain link fence is still bent. In five years he hasn't fixed it, and like so many other things in his life, he doesn't have an answer as to why.

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk —

Lark Mosher Montague

Montague was 55, married, a mother and grandmother, when she disappeared Sept. 22, 2007. She was last seen at 3 a.m., backing her husband's silver 2002 Chevy Trailblazer out of their driveway. Montague struggled with depression; she was the guardian of three grandchildren and another boy at the time she disappeared.