Online love triangle led to Dynabrade worker's death

A middle-aged West Virginia woman posing as an attractive young female on the Internet became the apex of a love triangle that sparked a fatal ambush in Clarence in September, Erie County sheriff's officials said Monday after arresting the man suspected of the killing. .

Online love triangle led to Dynabrade worker's death

Source: Buffalo News.com web site

By GENE WARNER
News Staff Reporter
11/28/2006

A middle-aged West Virginia woman posing as an attractive young female on the Internet became the apex of a love triangle that sparked a fatal ambush in Clarence in September, Erie County sheriff's officials said Monday after arresting the man suspected of the killing.

Sheriff's detectives arrested Thomas Montgomery, 47, without incident Monday morning at his home on East Grand Boulevard, Cheektowaga, Sheriff Timothy B. Howard announced.

Montgomery has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Brian M. Barrett, 22, of the Town of Lockport.

Barrett was gunned down inside his pickup truck after leaving his part-time job at Dynabrade Corp. on Sheridan Drive in Clarence late on the night of Sept. 15.

Investigators said Montgomery, a 12-year employee at Dynabrade, had been e-mailing the woman over the Internet since May 2005. In April, Barrett began a similar correspondence with the woman - who is in her mid-40s but posed as an attractive 18-year-old, using her daughter's e-mail and Web page.

"It would appear to be some kind of jealousy on the part of Mr. Montgomery, because Brian Barrett was exchanging notes with the same individual," Howard said at a late-morning news conference.

Love triangles often spark killings. But neither man ever saw the woman face to face.

"What's unique is that this was all a fantasy," Howard said.

Sheriff's officials believe Barrett was shot to death with a military-type .30-caliber rifle by a man in a ski mask and camouflage clothing.

"It would certainly suggest that [the killer] was there with that intention," Howard said of the man's clothing.

Authorities called Barrett an innocent victim who did nothing more than engage in a cyberspace romance.

"It goes back to the old adage that you don't know who you're talking to on the Internet," Scott R. Patronik, the sheriff's chief of special services, said, pointing out that the woman posing as an attractive young female could have been a 50-year-old man.

"The Web can be a dangerous place," he added. "You never know how you can become a victim."

Howard pointed to the dangers of such Internet communication with people you don't know.

"We've warned parents about their kids doing it, but it's also true for adults," the sheriff said.

Following the killing, authorities were scrambling for a motive in the attack on Barrett, described as a hard-working young man, a full-time Buffalo State College student who worked part time at Dynabrade.

It didn't take long for detectives to field tips about Montgomery's possible involvement.

"He made comments in the workplace that raised anxiety and led people to believe that he had a propensity for violence," Sheriff's Chief Dennis M. Rankin said.

Investigators then learned about the two men's separate relationships with the West Virginia woman.

Detectives aren't sure how Barrett learned about the woman, but they suspect that Montgomery may have boasted at work about this attractive young woman he was wooing.

She wasn't the only member of the love triangle to misrepresent herself on the Internet. Montgomery, a former Marine, passed himself off as a young Marine who had served in Iraq.

Montgomery learned about Barrett's correspondence with the West Virginia woman through conversations with him and other employees.

Sheriff's officials spent two months investigating the case, flying to West Virginia to interview the woman and gaining access to all three people's personal computers.

The Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory analyzed all three computers, using advanced techniques to access information that most computer users wouldn't be able to find.

"This is a combination of 21st century forensics and old-time police work - finding evidence at the scene, canvassing the neighborhood and interviewing employees," Howard said. "And we had great cooperation from [Dynabrade], the woman and the public."

Investigators wouldn't talk about the case against Montgomery, other than to say they have forensic evidence to tie him to the crime. He has not confessed to authorities, they added.

The Sheriff's Office also is asking for the public's help in finding the .30-caliber weapon. They released a photo of Montgomery, asking anyone who might have conducted a gun transaction with him to call them at 667-5201.

Authorities believe Barrett was ambushed just after he got into his pickup truck after leaving work Sept. 15. He was shot multiple times in the upper body. His body was found on the morning of Sept. 17.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

[Original Article on the Buffalo News.com web site ]