Patient charged with choking DHMC nurse

  • Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., as seen from the air on Dec. 9, 2017. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Charles Hatcher

  • Isabelle Montgomery (Lebanon Police photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/25/2019 9:54:51 PM
Modified: 11/25/2019 9:54:47 PM

LEBANON — A 45-year-old Sullivan County resident who was being treated as a psychiatric patient at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is facing a felony assault charge after police say she put an emergency room nurse in a chokehold while trying to leave the facility, causing the woman to lose consciousness.

Isabelle Montgomery, of Lempster, N.H., was charged with second-degree assault — strangulation and simple assault after the incident on Nov. 4. Montgomery waived arraignment and was released Thursday on personal recognizance, with instructions to stay at her home unless she’s going to work, meeting with her attorney or going to any other court-related appointment.

The alleged assault happened when Montgomery tried to leave the room where she was being held under doctor’s orders at DHMC, according to an affidavit by Lebanon Police Lt. Richard Smolenski. Staff at the hospital told police that Montgomery “became agitated” when nurses and a security guard told her she couldn’t leave and tried to get her back into her room, according to the affidavit.

Montgomery, who according to court documents is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs 165 pounds, grabbed David Luther, a security guard supervisor, and pushed him toward a wall before grabbing Jennifer Martin, a nurse at the facility, the affidavit said.

Martin told police that Montgomery then put her in a chokehold and held on until Martin’s vision started to “get dark.”

Staff members had “to use a couple people to pry Montgomery’s arms out from around (Martin’s) neck,” according to the affidavit. When they were able to free Martin, she fell to the ground, unconscious, staff members told police.

“The next thing she remembered was waking up in another room and not knowing how she got there,” the affidavit said.

After freeing Martin from the chokehold, staff members at the hospital got Montgomery to the ground and waited for police to arrive.

Martin, who was treated at the hospital for neck injuries following the incident, declined to comment when reached by phone Monday.

Montgomery also declined to comment Monday.

Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello said the assault occurred in a psychiatric section of the hospital, though Martin and another nurse involved in the incident are listed as emergency room nurses on their LinkedIn and Facebook, respectively. The hospital has a psychiatric hall in the emergency department with four rooms specifically designed for mental health patients, though it’s unclear if that’s where the incident occurred.

As part of her bail order, Montgomery is ordered to have no contact with Martin, to not leave Vermont or New Hampshire, and to participate in treatment at the Brattleboro Retreat or DHMC.

Mello said that assaults occur semi-frequently at DHMC but added that he wouldn’t categorize them as a major issue at the Lebanon medical center. He said the incident this month stood out because it was more severe than most of the calls police receive at DMHC, which usually concern simple assaults.

“We take the safety of our staff and patients very seriously,” Dartmouth-Hitchcock spokesman Rick Adams said in an email Monday, though he declined to provide any information about the incident involving Montgomery, citing federal patient privacy laws.

Assaults on staff members have long been a concern in the medical community. A 2019 survey of over 5,000 nurses showed that 59% said they have been verbally assaulted by a patient while 25% said they have been physically assaulted, according to a news release from the American Nurses Association.

Earlier this month the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, which requires employers to develop plans to prevent violence against staff members. The measure has yet to pass the Senate, but if it became law, employers would have to investigate reports of violence, provide training for employees who may face violence, and prohibit discrimination or retaliation against employees who do report incidents, according to the act.

Anna Merriman can be reached at or 603-727-3216.

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