An LGBT activist hailed as “a vibrant champion for social justice” was murdered in her East Atlanta home on Monday during a two-county crime spree that ended with a SWAT standoff.
Friends and supporters of Catherine Han Montoya have donated nearly $29,000 to a fund established in the wake of her death on Monday to help her wife, Meredith Cabell, and family. A wake is scheduled for Saturday with a funeral on Sunday.
To know Catherine Han Montoya was to love her, because you couldn’t help but feel her love for us, for the people, and for the world. She was a shining star in our movement, a tireless champion for immigrant rights, for AAPI women’s rights, for racial and LGBTQ justice. She spoke truth to power with a smile and laughter, and lovingly challenged us all to be our better selves.
Now as we mourn that Cathy was so tragically taken from us all, we must come together as she would have wanted us to, and fight through our broken hearts and sadness, to honor Cathy by doing what we can to support her wife Meredith and family.
DeKalb police found Montoya's partially-clothed body in a rear bedroom of her Shadowridge Drive about 1 p.m. on Monday, according to an incident report. She was found in a large pool of blood in a fetal position and was apparently strangled.
Her death came during an hours-long crime spree that covered two counties, police said. It started on Monday morning in a Waffle House parking lot when Donte Lamar Wyatt (second photo) confronted his ex-wife and repeatedly stabbed her, according to 11 Alive. Wyatt fled and somehow ended up in Montoya's East Atlanta home, police said.
From Henry County, Wyatt allegedly drove to DeKalb County, where he was later arrested. But after allegedly killing a woman in a house on Shadowridge Drive, Wyatt is accused of stealing a vehicle and driving to another house on Glynn Drive, where he refused to surrender until a SWAT team used tear gas, police said.
Wyatt has been arrested nearly a dozen times in the past, according to 11 Alive. It's not clear why he ended up at Montoya's home. DeKalb police charged him with murder, burglary and theft by taking a vehicle. He also faces charges of aggravated assault and false imprisonment in Henry County, according to the AJC.
Friends created SEEDS of Love to memorialize Montoya, who worked as a senior field manager for the Leadership on Civil & Human Rights and the leadership Conference Education Fund from 2008-2012. On Thursday, the organization praised her as “a vibrant champion for social justice.”
Cathy’s love for her work inspired everything that she did, from the Comité (“know your rights”) trainings and The Leadership Conference Freedom Institutes she founded, to the local and national partnerships she developed. She lived her values by working to empower others, and her basic kindness, humanity, and can-do spirit opened doors and earned her the endearing trust and respect of all who knew her. She also had a zest for life, for her loving wife and family, for fun, and for her beloved Denver Broncos. Simply put, Cathy was a dynamic force for good, and our community – and our nation – are far better because of her.
The organization said Montoya also worked with the National Council of La Raza and the ACLU.
The Georgia Voice, the first media outlet to report Montoya's identity and LGBT equality efforts, detailed a stream of Twitter tributes with hashtag #CathyMontoya that surfaced as details of death surfaced.