Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
Ruby Montoya has stood by her man during what is now a 42-year marriage. She has done so despite her husband, Jimmy M. Montoya, being accused of inappropriate behavior with young girls at four different schools in New Mexico, twice losing his teaching license as a result of those accusations, despite his DWI arrest in 1992, and a home foreclosure in 2014.
They’ve lived parallel lives, in a sense, having been born two weeks apart, each turning 64 this month, spending long careers as educators, going from school district to school district together, making stops in Socorro, Dallas, Santa Rosa, Vaughn and Española along the way.
They were married in 1976 when they were both 22 and raised two children together.
Another thing they have in common is convicted child molester Gary Gregor, who last week was found guilty of three counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor, four counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor and five counts of kidnapping. He faces up to 168 years in prison for his crimes.
Ruby was principal at Fairview Elementary School in Española during the time Gary Gregor was a teacher there.
Despite what students and others say were multiple reports of questionable behavior by Gregor while at her school – including accusations that he inappropriately touched young girls, gave them presents and invited them to his house while a second- and fourth-grade teacher at the school – neither Ruby Montoya nor anyone else at the school district called police or notified the Children Youth and Families Department about Gregor’s behavior.
One of Gregor’s victims testified recently that when she went to Ruby Montoya to tell her about Gregor touching her, the principal’s response was to tell students in the fourth-grade class to stop spreading false information.
A parent of one of Gregor’s victims was the first to contact police, but criminal charges weren’t filed until more than 10 years after the allegations were made. The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office under current AG Hector Balderas filed the charges.
Like Gregor, Jimmy Montoya spent most of his career as an elementary school teacher and also faced child molestation charges. But he took a plea deal in 2013 and avoided jail time. He and his wife are now retired and live in Bernalillo.
Reached by phone last week, Ruby Montoya declined to be interviewed.
“We have no comment,” she said.
‘Close’ to Gregor?
Though he taught at a different elementary school in Española, Jimmy Montoya described his relationship with Gregor as “close” in May of 2010 when he testified before a state Public Education Department hearing officer after Gregor appealed PED’s revocation of his teaching licence.
He and Gregor spent a lot of time together from 2006 to 2008, Jimmy Montoya said, working in the same study group in the Math and Science Academy for Teachers program offered by Los Alamos National Laboratory.
When asked whether he ever witnessed Gregor on the phone with anyone for any length of time during their study sessions – it had been alleged that Gregor frequently spoke to one of his young students on the phone at night – Jimmy Montoya said there wasn’t time for that.
“We were always busy,” he said.
He said at the PED hearing that he and Gregor would usually meet at one of the school campuses and mostly worked on computers to complete assignments, engage in chat sessions and email professors. They’d work from 4 p.m. to 9, 10, sometimes 11 at night Monday through Friday every week for three years, he said.
“We were together every day because the course work was that intense,” he said.
The Gregors and Montoyas occasionally socialized, sometimes having dinner at each other’s home, he said.
The Montoyas were good enough friends with Gregor that they allowed him to park his car at their Albuquerque home while he travelled to the Philippines to spend time with his new bride. Gregor stayed the night at their house and Jimmy drove him to the airport at 4 a.m.
During PED testimony, Jimmy said he considered Gregor an honest and good person.
Nearly five years later, in 2015, while giving a deposition in a lawsuit brought by a trio of Gregor’s former students that named Ruby Montoya as a defendant alongside Gregor and others, Jimmy Montoya downplayed his friendship with Gregor.
“I know that when we had that (PED) hearing … they asked me if he was my friend and I said ‘yes,’ ” Jimmy Montoya said. “But we didn’t – other than studying, I really didn’t see him.”
He knew Gregor only about two years, Montoya said in the 2015 deposition, and this time he said the couples had dinner at the Gregors’ house only one time. He said he was unaware that Gregor followed the Mormon faith. He and his study partner didn’t have common interests, he said.
“He was a pretty boring guy,” Jimmy said of Gregor.
But when asked what he thought when he heard about the mounting allegations against Gregor, Jimmy said, “I thought it was a crock of (B.S.), but that’s just me.”
Pressed as to why he thought that way, Jimmy Montoya said that, based on what he read in the newspaper, Española police had investigated the allegations and no charges were ever brought.
“He was never indicted of any crime. (The police) just let it go,” he said.
AG Balderas, who took office in 2015, started filing charges against Gregor in 2017.
It doesn’t come up during the deposition questioning – his defense attorney indicates the parties agreed not to delve too deeply into the details of Jimmy Montoya’s own history – but at the time of the deposition, he was serving probation under a plea deal in a case in which he was accused of inappropriate behavior with nine female students ages 10 and 11 at Sombrillo Elementary School in Española.
A grand jury indicted him in 2012 on nine charges of criminal sexual contact with a minor under 13. Some of the girls claimed Jimmy Montoya kissed them on the head and forehead, touched their breast areas over their clothing, hugged them and rubbed their shoulders.
He pleaded no contest to six counts of misdemeanor battery in exchange for dismissal of the sexual contact charges, saying in the 2015 deposition that he didn’t want to go through a trial.
Española Public Schools paid undisclosed amounts of money to settle lawsuits brought by the girls.
Meanwhile, three settled lawsuits against Gregor and Española Schools have now cost the school district more than $9 million. And civil litigation is still pending over Gregor’s alleged abusive behavior with girls he taught in a Santa Fe public school, before he was hired at Española.
Under his plea deal, Jimmy Montoya served 18 months of supervised probation, completing his obligations in 2016. The allegations also led to his losing his teaching license. He hasn’t taught school since.
History of allegations
Like Gregor, Jimmy Montoya was allowed back in the classroom with young girls after previously losing his teaching license over allegations of inappropriate behavior with female students, according to information in the 2015 deposition.
When a teacher at Zimmerly Elementary School in Socorro, Montoya was suspected of inappropriately touching two girls. Police investigated, but no charges were filed.
He later taught in the Santa Rosa school district, where he was accused of inappropriately touching a middle school girl and making inappropriate remarks to other female students.
Montoya received a reprimand for that incident and was transferred to a school in Anton Chico, where the next year he again was accused of inappropriately touching girls.
In the deposition, he says he lost his job in Santa Rosa for insubordination. Technically, that’s true, because he failed to follow a directive to refrain from making inappropriate contact with students. He was never charged with a crime. In fact, Santa Rosa police weren’t notified of the incidents.
Yet, collectively, the incidents in Socorro and Santa Rosa prompted PED to suspend his K-8 teaching license and 7-12 athletic coaches license for one year, beginning in 1999. He and Ruby moved to Vaughn and taught school there for a few years before the couple got teaching jobs in the Española school district, where Ruby later became a principal.
In the 2015 deposition, attorney Cammie Nichols, representing Gregor’s alleged victims, asked Jimmy Montoya whether he had ever given a deposition before and specifically if he had ever gone through a divorce proceeding.
“No,” he said, and knocked on what was presumably a wooden table.
Jimmy and Ruby had been married 38 years, he told the attorney, and Jimmy acknowledged that he and his wife had gone through some tough times. “Yes, ma’am,” he said.
It does not appear that Ruby Montoya was ever asked if the accusations of improper touching against her husband affected how she reacted to accusations against Gregor.
But Ruby Montoya has stuck by Jimmy.
In a deposition Ruby Montoya gave for civil litigation, she defended her husband against the allegation that he had inappropriately touched a 14-year-old girl in Santa Rosa, saying that he was merely standing up from a chair and briefly put his hand on the girl’s thigh.
Another time, she was asked whether she ever thought the many allegations against her husband might be true.
“Did it ever occur to you, during the time that you lived with your husband and worked in the same district as him, that he might continue to engage in the type of behavior he’s been found to have engaged in by the Public Education Department?” Nichols asked.
Ruby Montoya: “No.”
Nichols: “Did it ever occur to you that, perhaps, he should not continue to be a teacher?”
Nichols: “Did you ever discuss that with him?”
Ruby: “I can’t remember.”
Nichols: “Did you ever – ”
Ruby: ” – going to that extent, I mean – ”
Nichols: “You didn’t ever discuss with him that – what was happening with this behavior?”
Nichols: “You never discussed with him that maybe he shouldn’t continue to teach elementary school girls?”
Later, Nichols’ colleague, Alicia Lopez, asked Ruby Montoya if she had ever told her husband that she thought Gregor was “a good man,” as Gregor claimed to others that she had.
“No, I would never do that,” she said. “If I was going to say anybody’s a good man, it would be my husband.”