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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Montgomery killed the pregnant Stinnett before cutting Stinnett's unborn baby out from the womb and kidnapping her
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 16, 2004
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: February 27, 1968
Victim profile: Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23
Method of murder: Strangulation with a pink neon rope
Location: Skidmore, Nodaway County, Missouri, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on April 4, 2008
photo gallery
F.B.I. Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint

United States Court of Appeals
For the Eighth Circuit

United States of America v. Lisa M. Montgomery

Lisa Marie Montgomery, (born February 27, 1968) is an American woman from Melvern, Kansas, who was convicted of the 2004 murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett. Montgomery killed the pregnant Stinnett before cutting Stinnett's unborn baby out from the womb and kidnapping her.


Montgomery met Stinnett online in a rat terrier chatroom called "Ratter Chatter." Posing as "Darlene Fischer," Montgomery told Stinnett that she, too, was pregnant. The two women chatted online and exchanged e-mails about their pregnancies. Montgomery then arranged a meeting at Stinnett's home under the pretext of wanting to buy a rat terrier.

On December 16, 2004, Montgomery strangled the pregnant woman with a pink neon rope in her home in Skidmore, Missouri, and cut the premature infant from her womb. She later attempted to pass the infant girl off as her own child.

Stinnett was discovered by her mother, Becky Harper, in a pool of blood about an hour after the assault. Harper immediately called 911, describing the wounds inflicted upon her daughter as appearing as if her "stomach had exploded". Attempts by paramedics to revive Stinnett were unsuccessful, and she was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital in Maryville, Missouri.

The next day, December 17, 2004, Montgomery was at her farmhouse when she was arrested. After Montgomery's capture by police, the day-old baby was recovered. Victoria Jo Stinnett was returned to the care of her father, Zeb Stinnett.


Montgomery's criminal offense, established under the Federal Kidnapping Act, intended to make it easier for federal authorities to respond to kidnappings once they cross state lines. She was tried and convicted for "kidnapping resulting in death," in Title 18, United States Code 1201. U.S. attorney Todd Graves stated that federal jurisdiction is established when a person dies as a result of a kidnapping. Violations of Title 18, USC 1201 may result in capital punishment and/or any sentence up to life imprisonment.

At a pre-trial hearing, a neuropsychologist testified that head injuries which she had suffered some years before could have damaged the part of the brain which controls aggression. During her trial in federal court, her defense attorneys asserted that she suffered from pseudocyesis, a mental condition that causes a woman to falsely believe she is pregnant and exhibit outward signs of pregnancy.

Noted neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran gave expert testimony that Montgomery suffered from severe pseudocyesis delusion. According to Ramachandran, Montgomery's childhood sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder predisposed her to pseudocyesis. Ramachandran testified that Montgomery's stories about her actions fluctuated because her delusional state fluctuated. Ramachandran stated that Montgomery was suffering from a severe mental disease or defect when she committed the crime and that she was unable to appreciate the nature and quality of her acts. Federal prosecutor Roseann Ketchmark characterized Ramachandran's theory linking the murder/kidnapping to pseudocyesis as "voodoo science."

Forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz testified for the prosecution. Dietz had worked with prosecutors on other high-profile cases, including those of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, as well as two women, Andrea Yates and Susan Smith, who had killed their own children. Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Dietz testified that Montgomery did not suffer from pseudocyesis and dismissed Ramachandran's theory as outrageous.

On October 22, 2007, jurors found Montgomery guilty of murder. On October 26, the jury recommended a death sentence. Judge Gary A. Fenner formally gave the death sentence to Montgomery.

Prosecutor Matt Whitworth claimed that Lisa Montgomery planned the murder well in advance, according to a report from the BBC. On April 4, 2008, a judge upheld the jury's recommendation for death.

The case is detailed in the 2006 books Baby Be Mine by Diane Fanning and Murder in the Heartland by M. William Phelps.

On March 19, 2012, the US Supreme Court denied Montgomery's certiorari petition.

Montgomery, who is registered for the Federal Bureau of Prisons under number 11072-031, is currently being held at Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. She could become the third woman to be put to death by the federal government since 1927, and second since Ethel Rosenberg was executed for espionage at Sing Sing Prison in New York State on June 19, 1953. Bonnie Emily Brown Heady was executed in Missouri on December 18, 1953.


Bobbie Jo Stinnett (December 4, 1981 – December 16, 2004) was a 23-year-old pregnant woman found brutally slain in her home in Skidmore, Missouri. The accused, Lisa M. Montgomery, then 36, was convicted of strangling Stinnett from behind and then cutting the woman's unborn child, eight months into gestation, from her womb. The child was not found at the scene of the murder.


Stinnett was discovered by her mother, Becky Harper, in a pool of blood about an hour after the assault. Harper immediately called 911, describing the wounds inflicted upon her daughter as appearing as if her "stomach had exploded". Attempts by paramedics to revive Stinnett were unsuccessful, and she was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital in Maryville, Missouri.

The child survived the procedure and was soon brought to Melvern, Kansas, by her abductor, where the newborn was claimed by Montgomery as her own. Authorities found them a day later; the quick recovery and capture was attributed to, in part, the use of computer forensics, which tracked Montgomery and Stinnett's online communication with one another. Both bred rat terriers and may have attended dog shows together. The investigation was also aided by the issuance of an AMBER alert to enlist the public's help, DNA testing to confirm the infant's identity, and the enormous amount of media attention.

It is known that Stinnett was expecting the arrival of prospective buyers for a terrier at about the time of her murder. Additionally, there was no sign of forced entry. Authorities now believe that Montgomery, posing as a customer, arranged to visit her alleged victim's home on that day. An FBI affidavit states that Montgomery confessed to the crime not long after she was in custody.

It is speculated that Montgomery's motivation stemmed from a miscarriage she may have suffered and subsequently concealed from her family. However, Montgomery's former husband has since told authorities that she underwent a tubal ligation in 1990, and that she had a history of falsely telling acquaintances that she was pregnant. How or whether Montgomery had recently become pregnant is unclear.


On December 20 — four days after Stinnett's murder — Montgomery was charged with the capital offense of kidnapping resulting in death and was convicted of this charge in U.S. District Court. On October 22, 2007, Montgomery was convicted of kidnapping resulting in the death of Bobbie Jo Stinnett. Four days later, the jury recommended the death penalty. The infant, since named Victoria Jo Stinnett, was reunited with her family, including her father Zeb.


The case was covered in a book, Baby Be Mine, by author Diane Fanning.

On March 19, 2012, the US Supreme Court denied Lisa Montgomery's certiorari petition.


Lisa Montgomery gets death penalty for killing pregnant woman

By John Marshall - Associated Press Writer

April 4, 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Lisa Montgomery was sentenced to death Friday for killing a Missouri mother-to-be and cutting the baby from the woman's womb.

U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner in Kansas City handed down the sentence after a jury recommended the death penalty for Montgomery in the 2004 slaying of Bobbie Jo Stinnett of Skidmore, in northwest Missouri.

Montgomery becomes the third woman on federal death row.

"I hope that today's sentence will bring some measure of closure to the family of Bobbie Jo Stinnett," U.S. Attorney John Wood said in a statement. "Seeking the ultimate penalty is not something we take lightly, but this outcome serves the cause of justice and honors the memory of Bobbie Jo Stinnett."

Montgomery was convicted in October of kidnapping resulting in death in the Dec. 16, 2004, killing of Stinnett. The 40-year-old from Melvern was arrested at her farmhouse a day after showing off Stinnett's baby as her own.

Prosecutors presented evidence during the trial that Montgomery strangled Stinnett with a rope, then used a kitchen knife to cut her infant daughter from the womb. Stinnett was eight months pregnant at the time.

The jury rejected claims from Montgomery's attorney, Fred Duchardt, that she should be spared the death penalty because sexual abuse during her childhood led to mental illness. Duchardt raised about 20 issues in his motion for a new trial -- one that was denied by Fenner -- and said he plans to appeal the case.

"The thing that happened here is horrible and we can't say anything differently about that and wouldn't even try, but what we've tried to express to everybody who would listen is just the sweet person she is," Duchardt said.

Montgomery's husband, Kevin, and Stinnett's mother, Becky Harper, attended the hearing with other family members, but neither spoke with reporters after leaving the courtroom.

Montgomery declined Fenner's offer to speak before her sentencing and sat quietly as Fenner announced the death sentence.

"There's so much in the (court) tapes about Lisa's sorrow about what happened, but the trouble with her mental condition is that she can't even go back there, can't even resurrect those memories of what happened," Duchardt said.

Before sentencing, Duchardt asked Fenner to include information about Montgomery's abuse and medical treatment in documents sent to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Department of Justice spokesman Don Ledford said Montgomery will likely be sent to the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, a women's correctional facility that has medical services for inmates.

"The one good thing that's happened in all of this for Lisa is that she's on medications to deal with her mental-health issues," Duchardt said. "The doctors who are treating her have had her on a medication regimen that has done wonders."

Montgomery is just the third woman to be sentenced to federal death row since 1972, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling led to an overhaul of death-penalty statues across the country.

Since 1927, only two women have been executed under the federal system, both in 1953.

Ethel Rosenberg was the first, sent to the electric chair after her and husband Julius, were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.

Bonnie Heady was sent to the gas chamber with her lover Carl Hall for the kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old boy in Kansas City.

Mary Surratt also was hanged by the U.S. Government in 1865 for her involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

As of Dec. 31, 2007, there were 51 women on death row in the U.S., according to the Death Penalty Information Center. They represent less than 2 percent of the roughly 3,350 inmates on death row.

There have been 50 women executed in the U.S. over the past 100 years, the most recent being Francis Newton by lethal injection in Texas on Sept. 15, 2005, according to the death penalty center.

"Women rarely get the death penalty in murder cases because it usually involves someone they know or is some kind of domestic issue," said Richard Dieter, spokesman for the Death Penalty Information Center. "It usually has to be something exceptional for them to get the death penalty."


Woman found guilty of killing pregnant mother

Associated Press

October 22, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A woman whose attorneys had argued that she was suffering from delusions when she killed an expectant mother, cut the baby from her womb and took the infant home was convicted Monday.

Jurors convicted Lisa Montgomery, 39, of kidnapping resulting in death in the 2004 attack on 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore.

The jury deliberated for about four hours before rejecting Montgomery’s insanity defense. The jury could have acquitted her outright or found her not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors said they plan to seek the death penalty.

After the verdict was read, Montgomery dried her eyes and one of her attorneys patted her back to console her.

Stinnett’s husband, Zeb, and Montgomery’s husband, Kevin, showed no emotion.

Defense attorneys claimed Montgomery was suffering from pseudocyesis, which causes a woman to falsely believe she is pregnant and exhibit outward signs of pregnancy.

Defense argued she was abused as a child

They portrayed her as a victim of severe mental illness whose delusion of being pregnant was being threatened, causing her to enter a dreamlike state when the killing took place.

They also argued that she had post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by mental, physical and sexual abuse in her childhood.

But during closing arguments, federal prosecutor Roseann Ketchmark called the pseudocyesis claim “voodoo science.”

She said Montgomery was driven by fear because she believed her ex-husband, Carl Boman, would expose that she was lying about being pregnant and use it against her as he sought custody of two of the couple’s four children.

“It’s not pseudocyesis or post-traumatic stress disorder,” Ketchmark said. “And even if you wrap them up and put delusions around them, it’s not insanity.”

Ketchmark said Montgomery plotted the slaying and abduction and took pains to cover up that planning after she was caught.

“She knows she’s not pregnant,” the prosecutor said. “It’s no delusion. It’s deceit and manipulation.”

Falsely claimed multiple pregnancies

Montgomery had undergone a tubal ligation in 1990 after the birth of her fourth child. But soon after, she began falsely reporting a series of pregnancies. In 2004, she claimed to be due in mid-December.

Boman had become suspicious of her latest pregnancy claim and threatened to use it against her as he sought custody of two of the couple’s four children. A custody hearing had been set for January 2005.

Montgomery’s mother and sister also had been telling Montgomery’s husband and his parents that it was impossible for her to carry a child.

As Montgomery’s purported Dec. 13, 2004, due date approached, she began conducting searches on the Internet about Stinnett and researching different aspects of child birth. The defense portrayed those efforts as evidence that she believed she was pregnant. The prosecution called them proof of premeditation.

Prosecutors said Montgomery used a rope to choke Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant. But Stinnett was conscious and trying to defend herself as Montgomery used a kitchen knife to cut the baby girl from the womb, prosecutors said.

Montgomery was arrested the day after the killing after spending the morning showing off the infant as her own in her hometown of Melvern, Kan.

Montgomery’s attorneys and a spokesman for Stinnett’s family declined to comment. Stinnett’s baby is living with her family.

“The only good thing that comes from this tragedy is that little Victoria is a healthy baby and is reunited with her family,” U.S. Attorney John F. Wood said.

After initially denying the crime, Montgomery told investigators she had taken a knife, rope and umbilical cord clamp with her to Stinnett’s home. Montgomery said she had thought she was leaving the home when “something out of character” happened and “then this took place.”

Attorneys are to start arguing Wednesday whether Montgomery deserves the death penalty.


Psychiatrist testifies Montgomery sane

Noted prosecution witness says woman knew what she was doing in slaying

By Steve Fry -

October 19, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Lisa Montgomery got out of her red Toyota at the Skidmore, Mo., home of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, she slipped off her wedding ring and left it in the car, perhaps so she wouldn't taint it in Stinnett's blood when she killed her and cut the baby from her stomach, a forensic psychiatrist testified Thursday.

Dr. Park Dietz, a rebuttal witness called by the U.S. attorney, was the only witness to testify Thursday during the trial of Montgomery, 39, of Melvern, Kan., who is charged with the kidnapping of Victoria Jo Stinnett resulting in the slaying of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23.

On questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Whitworth, Dietz chipped away at the insanity defense of Montgomery, who is seeking a not guilty verdict by reasons of insanity in the killing and kidnapping on Dec. 16, 2004.

"It is my opinion within a reasonable medical certainty that at the time of the charged homicide and kidnapping, the defendant did not suffer from a serious mental disease or defect," Dietz testified.

Expert defense witnesses have testified this week that Montgomery was suffering from a severe mental defect, pseudocyesis, a false belief she was pregnant; post-traumatic stress disorder; bipolar disorder; and major depression when Bobbie Jo Stinnett was killed. Montgomery's PTSD stems from physical and sexual abuse she suffered as a child and a teen. Montgomery was in a delusional state and couldn't appreciate the gravity of her actions, defense witnesses have testified.

Prosecutors contend Montgomery drove to Skidmore, entered the Stinnett home using an alias on the pretext of buying a rat terrier puppy and strangled Stinnett, then cut the baby from her stomach before driving back to Melvern, where she claimed the child was hers.

Dietz countered that Montgomery didn't have a mental disorder causing her to believe she was pregnant in 2004. Montgomery, who was sterilized in 1990, had told her husband, children, other family members and friends she was pregnant and would deliver the child within days of when Stinnett was killed and her baby was kidnapped.

"I concluded the defendant malingered her 2004 pregnancy," Dietz testified.

Montgomery knew her actions were wrong, Dietz said. For example, when investigators were questioning her after they found the infant in her arms at her rural Melvern home, she asked them why they were so nice to her considering what she had done. That indicated Montgomery knew what she had done was wrong, Dietz said.

When she arrived at the Stinnett home, she carried in her coat pocket a length of white rope to strangle Bobbie Jo Stinnett and a stainless steel knife to cut out her baby, Dietz said.

"It's total proof this wasn't impulsive," Dietz said.

Dietz said an ultrasound photograph of a baby that Montgomery had copied from the Internet, doctoring it so her name was on it and then showing it to her family, was an important part of the case.

"The ultrasound is one of the most important smoking guns to show this defendant knew she wasn't pregnant in 2004," Dietz said.

Dietz, who is head of Park Dietz and Associates, a southern California firm specializing in forensic psychiatry, has examined thousands of people charged with serious crimes and has been determined to be an expert witness hundreds of times in cases in state and federal courts.

Dietz led a team to evaluate John Hinckley Jr., who shot President Reagan, and has consulted on high-profile cases, including bomber Eric Rudolph; the Washington, D.C., sniper case; Susan Smith, who drowned her two children by allowing her vehicle to roll into a lake; and Andrea Yates, the woman convicted of drowning her five children in a bathtub.

Fred Duchardt, lead defense attorney, questioned Dietz most of Thursday afternoon but hadn't challenged his conclusions that Montgomery wasn't delusional or legally insane at the time of the killing.

The trial resumes at 8:45 a.m. today when Duchardt resumes questioning Dietz. Closing statements are expected Monday.


Montgomery not psychotic, but a liar, witness says

By Steve Fry -

October 18, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — About the only nice things a psychologist hired by prosecutors could say on Wednesday about Lisa Montgomery was that she had a superior IQ and she scored low on a test to measure whether she was psychotic.

Montgomery, 39, of Melvern, Kan., is charged with the kidnapping of infant Victoria Jo Stinnett resulting in death in the slaying of the child's mother, Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, of Skidmore.

Dr. Daniel Martell, a forensic psychologist, said Montgomery scored well below being psychotic. But the test Martell conducted showed Montgomery was cunning and manipulative, was a pathological liar, lacked remorse, was irresponsible, failed to accept responsibility and exhibited promiscuous sexual behavior, although he acknowledged she was the victim of sexual assaults as a young teen by a stepfather.

Martell, who has testified 200 times as an expert in state and federal courts in the areas of forensic psychology and neuropsychology, also found that Montgomery had poor behavioral controls, was impulsive and lacked empathy.

Defense attorneys rested their case at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday after Montgomery under oath told U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner she didn't want to testify although she understood she had the right to do so. The defense called 30 witnesses over four days.

Martell was one of two rebuttal witnesses called by prosecutors Wednesday.

One factor in finding that Montgomery was a pathological liar was a statement by her to Martell that she was an "immaculate housekeeper" and her rural house was "neat as a pin," Martell said. He said other evidence showed otherwise.

During the trial, a law officer who went to the Montgomery house testified there were dog and rodent droppings inside.

"I think she was a manipulative woman" who would say whatever it took to get what she wanted, Martell said.

Martell spent three days in May and two days in June conducting psychological testing on Montgomery He found that she had an IQ of 120, which is in the superior range. Montgomery would have scored higher, but she didn't give her best effort, Martell said. Montgomery pretended to have a memory problem and a mood disorder, including depression, Martell said.

Montgomery has post-traumatic stress disorder, which results from exposure to terrifying events, including assaults, Martell said.

Martell said the PTSD could be the result of suffering physical and sexual abuse as a child and a teen, but it also could stem from strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett, then cutting Victoria Jo Stinnett from her mother's belly and due to sitting in jail facing trial.

It isn't unusual for someone who has committed a brutal crime to have trouble sleeping, Martell said.

But Dr. Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, director of the Center of Brain and Cognition at the University of California in San Diego and professor in the psychology and neurosciences departments and a defense witness, told jurors Montgomery was suffering from a severe mental defect, pseudocyesis, a false belief she was pregnant, on Dec. 16, 2004, when Bobbie Jo Stinnett was killed. Montgomery is using an insanity defense, meaning she is seeking a not guilty verdict based on insanity.

Dr. Park Dietz, a well-known forensic psychiatrist, is to testify today as a rebuttal witness for prosecutors. Dietz has testified in high-profile cases, including those of John Hinckley Jr., who seriously wounded President Reagan; and Jeffrey Dahmer, the Milwaukee serial killer convicted of 15 murders. Dahmer's victims were cannibalized.

It is expected the jury of six men and six women will hear closing statements by prosecutors and defense attorneys Friday.


Montgomery's husband testifies

Man says he believed his wife when she said she was pregnant

By Steve Fry -

October 10, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — FBI agents had staked out Lisa Montgomery's rural Melvern, Kan., house by the time she and her husband returned from showing off the newborn infant she had killed for a day earlier, Montgomery's husband testified Tuesday.

Kevin Montgomery said he saw a sport utility vehicle with Shawnee County, Kan., license plates parked a quarter mile from his home when he drove up in a red Toyota Corolla. An earlier witness identified the Toyota as being parked outside the home in Skidmore, Mo., of slaying victim Bobbie Jo Stinnett on the day an attacker strangled her and cut an infant from her belly. Kevin and Lisa Montgomery drove on to their home and went outside.

Kevin Montgomery spent more than two hours testifying Tuesday during the fifth day of the trial of Lisa Montgomery, 39, who is charged with kidnapping resulting in death in the slaying of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23.

Kevin Montgomery soon saw four people from the SUV walking up to their farmhouse, and he opened door and invited them inside. One of the four said in light of the Amber alert seeking public aid in finding Victoria Jo Stinnett, the missing infant, the law enforcement officers wanted to question the Montgomerys because they heard the couple had a newborn baby in the house, Kevin Montgomery said.

Kevin Montgomery earlier that day heard about the Amber alert but he didn't connect the missing Stinnett infant to the appearance of his wife on the evening of Dec. 16, 2004, with a baby she said she had just delivered in Topeka. Lisa Montgomery told her husband she had been shopping in Topeka on Dec. 16, 2004, gone into labor and delivered the infant at the Birth and Growth Center at S.W. 6th and Washburn.

The Montgomerys had spent much of Dec. 17, 2004, showing off the baby they called Abigail to people at the Whistle Stop Cafe, a bank and his parents' home, all in Melvern, and the Casey's convenience store and Osage County Courthouse, both in nearby Lyndon, then drove home to find the waiting investigators.

While an officer watched the baby, others questioned the Montgomerys separately, taking Lisa Montgomery outside to interview her, Kevin Montgomery said. Eventually, officers told him that his wife was a suspect in the slaying of Bobbie Jo Stinnett and the kidnapping of Victoria Jo Stinnett, he said.

At times Tuesday, the questions to Kevin Montgomery were pointed.

Did you have anything to do with the death of Bobbie Jo Stinnett? assistant U.S. attorney Matt Whitworth asked.

"No," Kevin Montgomery said in a quiet voice.

The Montgomerys went around Melvern showing off the baby on Dec. 17, 2004, when in fact Lisa Montgomery had killed Bobbie Jo Stinnett the day before, correct? Whitworth said.

"Correct," Kevin Montgomery answered.

In lengthy questioning, Kevin Montgomery acknowledged that on three occasions, Lisa Montgomery told him she was pregnant at times from 2001 to 2004, saying he believed her because her abdomen became large, her periods stopped, she was cranky, she had morning sickness, she took prenatal vitamins and her breasts were enlarged.

But on Tuesday, he admitted she had lied to him when she told him she was pregnant.

Yet you still stand by your wife? Whitworth asked.

"Do I love my wife? Yes," Kevin Montgomery said.

The two, who were wed in 2000, remain married, and each wore their wedding rings on Tuesday.

Kevin Montgomery also admitted that Patty Baldwin, a sister of Lisa Montgomery, had told him that his wife couldn't have children because she had had a procedure done in October 1990 to make her sterile after she had a difficult pregnancy when she was 22.


Montgomery Trial — Doctor depicts brutal attack

Homicide victim was alive when baby was sliced from her womb

By Steve Fry -

October 6, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant in December 2004, had been strangled into unconsciousness, then came to as her attacker used a knife to slice her baby from her womb, an expert on forensic pathology testified Friday.

Dr. Mary Case, chief medical examiner for St. Louis County, Mo., and a forensic pathologist, testified during the first week of the trial for Lisa Montgomery. Montgomery, 39, of Melvern, Kan., is charged with kidnapping resulting in death in the slaying of Stinnett, 23, of Skidmore, Mo. The kidnapping refers to the taking of infant Victoria Jo Stinnett. Montgomery could face either the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Evidence showed that Stinnett was struggling with her attacker as she was being strangled, said Case, who has been chief medical examiner since 1988 and has conducted about 10,000 autopsies, including several hundred on homicide victims.

Stinnett was strangled into unconsciousness, regained consciousness while the incision was being made, struggled with her attacker, and was strangled a second time, Case said. Stinnett died of strangulation and loss of blood, the pathologist said.

Jurors saw large photographs of the soles of Stinnett's bare feet.

Blood on her feet is indicative that she was conscious when she stepped into the blood already on the floor, Case said. The blood already on the floor means she was stabbed before she regained consciousness, Case said.

There was enough blood on the floor to come up between her toes and soak into her toenails, the pathologist said.

Using large photos, Case pointed to two sets of abrasions on the victim's neck, which were left by the rope used to choke Stinnett twice. Nylon rope stained with dried blood "is very consistent with the ligature markings here," Case said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Whitworth then held up a clear plastic evidence bag containing the nylon rope so jurors could see it.

Stinnett either had to be lying on her back with her feet drawn up or standing to get the blood on the soles, and both positions imply she was conscious, Case testified on cross-examination. Stinnett also suffered cuts on the hands while defending herself and was struck on the bridge of the nose and the right side of the head during the struggle, Case said.

As Case testified, Montgomery cried and her hands shook so much she couldn't hold the notebook she has written in during the trial.

In other testimony, Jason Dawson told jurors he was a rat terrier breeder on Dec. 15, 2004, when he introduced Montgomery, who was using an alias, to Stinnett, all via the Internet.

A day later, Stinnett was dead, and two days later, Montgomery was in jail on suspicion of killing the mother and kidnapping the infant.

Dawson, who was a hobby breeder of rat terriers, received an e-mail from Darlene Fischer, Montgomery's alias, who identified herself as wanting to get a rat terrier. Dawson's e-mail address was posted on a Web site focusing on the breed.

Dawson passed along Stinnett's e-mail address and phone number to Fischer and suggested she buy a red dog in a litter of rat terrier pups that Stinnett had, Dawson said. By Dec. 17, 2004, Dawson knew Montgomery was arrested in connection with Stinnett's slaying.

"I felt betrayed and absolutely sickened," Dawson said. "Bobbie Jo was such an incredible young lady. It yanked everything in my heart right out."

Dawson said he was no longer involved in breeding terriers because of Stinnett's killing.

Another witness, Jennifer Sage, was working in the county clerk's office in the Osage County Courthouse in Lyndon, Kan., when Montgomery and her husband showed off the baby there on Dec. 17, 2004.

"My suspicion was that (Montgomery had been) in Skidmore, that she did kill Bobbie Jo, and that she took that child and was passing it off as her own," Sage said.

Sage didn't hold the baby at the courthouse.

"Knowing what I thought was going on, it was too weird for me," Sage testified.

Eleven witnesses testified Friday, and 12 did so a day earlier. The trial resumes Tuesday after the Columbus Day holiday on Monday.


Appeal in Skidmore, Mo., fetal abduction case reveals defense team conflicts

By Mark Morris - The Kansas City Star

March 9, 2015

Lisa Montgomery was convicted and sentenced to die for killing a pregnant Missouri woman in 2004 and kidnapping a baby from her womb. She deserves a new sentencing, her new lawyers contend in court records that detail friction among original defense team members.

Defense lawyers attending a November 2005 dinner at a Kansas City restaurant had hoped it would be relaxed and informal.

Assigned to defend Lisa Montgomery, the Kansan accused of killing a pregnant Missourian and kidnapping a baby from her womb, the attorneys wanted to smooth out some internal friction and find a way to prepare the death-penalty case for trial.

But a sharp exchange between two lawyers splintered the team tasked with saving Montgomery’s life.

And the conflicts that flared that night still burn today.

Previous attorneys have so poorly represented Montgomery over the last 10 years that her conviction and death sentence should be set aside and a new federal trial ordered, her latest team of lawyers contends.

Some of the defense lawyers who earlier represented Montgomery sharply dispute the notion they did a poor job. But more than 700 pages of court records unsealed recently show that death-penalty defense is a high-pressure business in which everything is closely scrutinized on appeal.

Today, Montgomery awaits the outcome of her appeals at a Texas prison, the only woman among the 61 people on federal death row.

Any spirit of teamwork on Montgomery’s first team of defense lawyers evaporated at the 2005 dinner meeting.

Each of the three attorneys brought something essential.

David Owen, a veteran attorney in the federal public defender’s office, had no death penalty experience but represented the office paying for Montgomery’s defense.

Susan Hunt possessed death penalty experience but chafed at Owen’s control of the defense’s purse strings.

Judy Clarke simply was the team’s great hope. A California federal defender, Clarke had saved some of the nation’s most notorious murderers from death row: Susan Smith, convicted in South Carolina of killing her two sons; Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski; and Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph.

Montgomery presented the same kind of tough challenge. She’d drawn global headlines in December 2004 when federal prosecutors accused her of strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett to death, slicing open her belly and kidnapping her unborn baby at Stinnett’s home in Skidmore, Mo.

And because authorities arrested her cradling the infant in her arms, little doubt existed that she committed the crime. A mental health defense, Clarke’s specialty, was to be mounted.

The dinner meeting turned sour when Clarke held up a form that Owen had prepared to help establish and track case priorities, according to sworn statements each lawyer later filed in court.

Here’s how Clarke described what happened: “I stated matter-of-factly that he did not know enough to be the leader of the team and that he needed to relinquish control …. I explained that the attorney on the team with the least experience should not be in control of the case.”

Hunt remembered it this way: “Ms. Clarke told Mr. Owen that he should not be setting priorities and didn’t have enough experience to make decisions about priorities.”

Owen recalled Clarke saying: “You are too stupid to set priorities and don’t have enough trial experience to make any decisions.”

Montgomery’s defense team sputtered on until April 2006, when U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner removed Clarke after hearing complaints about conflicts.

Hunt dropped out a few weeks later, saying she needed more control over the case’s budget.

But the loss of Clarke, who now defends Boston Marathon bombing defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, devastated Montgomery’s chances to avoid the death penalty, her current appeals lawyers have argued.

Fenner has defended his decision to remove Clarke but acknowledged in a court filing last summer that defense issues early on were “messy” and “difficult.”

“It was all very unpleasant,” he said.

Because the appeals case remains undecided, lawyers who represented and prosecuted Montgomery declined to comment for this article. Their written recollections of the case are on file with the court, however.


Federal appeals courts upheld Montgomery’s conviction and sentence in 2011.

The current brawl is happening in the little-noticed world of secondary, or “collateral,” death penalty appeals. In a collateral appeal, new attorneys working for the condemned are encouraged to tear apart the work of defense trial team members and prove they did a poor job.

Those beleaguered defense lawyers often find that their fiercest advocates become the very federal prosecutors who put their clients on death row.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Roseann A. Ketchmark, for example, described the arguments of Montgomery’s latest appeals lawyers as the “second-guessing” of hard-working trial attorneys who faced an almost impossible job.

“Montgomery gave her defense team virtually nothing to work with,” Ketchmark wrote in court filings.

Few cases are overturned on “ineffective assistance of counsel” claims, which routinely are filed in death-penalty cases, experts said. The standard is very high because courts start their examination by presuming that the lawyers are effective.

But the U.S. Supreme Court has, in recent years, made it a little easier by requiring death-penalty lawyers to fully investigate their client’s personal history, said Richard Dieter, senior program director at the Death Penalty Information Center.

If the attorneys fail to do that, their client could get a new trial, or perhaps a new sentencing hearing where lawyers can present new evidence and argue against the death penalty.

The rigorous federal system has resulted in few executions, Dieter noted. Only three federal prisoners have been executed since 2001.

“The federal courts expect high levels of performance,” Dieter said. “There haven’t been very many federal executions.”


In May 2006, with trial more than a year away, Fenner appointed two new lawyers to assist Owen with Montgomery’s defense. With the selections of John P. O’Connor and Fred Duchardt, some would argue that she was represented by a local “dream team.”

O’Connor, a former prosecutor, had established himself as one of Kansas City’s most successful, “go-to” criminal defense lawyers.

Duchardt, though less well known, had tried more than a dozen capital cases.

Immediately they explored a medical condition called pseudocyesis, which eventually formed the heart of the insanity defense O’Connor and Duchardt offered when trial opened in October 2007. Pseudocyesis is a mental condition, often accompanied by physical symptoms, in which a person believes they are expecting a child when they are not carrying a baby.

Montgomery, who had undergone a tubal ligation, was driven by pseudocyesis and an unhealthy stew of other issues to stalk Stinnett on the Internet and then kill her, the defense argued.

But later, after Montgomery had been sentenced to die, her appeals lawyers hammered the trial team for relying on “the exotic and misguided” pseudocyesis defense.

Instead, they should have told “the true story of Lisa Montgomery’s life, her history of abuse and her mental illness and brain damage,” wrote appeals lawyer Lisa Nouri in a 238-page motion seeking a new trial.

Duchardt and prosecutors replied that jurors heard much of that history, though not packaged quite the same way suggested by Nouri and the other appeals lawyers, Christine Blegen and Kelley J. Henry.

Indeed, Duchardt pushed, without success, to admit even more evidence about the condition of Montgomery’s brain, a point that should count in his favor, said Deborah Denno, a capital punishment researcher at Fordham University.

Courts now expect lawyers to pursue that kind of evidence, Denno said.

“The fact that he was bringing in neuroscience evidence speaks well for him,” Denno said. “He’s a sophisticated lawyer.”


Just when Fenner will rule on whether Montgomery received effective representation is not clear.

But as Fenner noted in a filing last summer, Montgomery’s legal bills for this appeal are nudging close to a $550,000 cap he established earlier.

To cut costs, he trimmed one lawyer, Blegen, from Montgomery’s appeal team.

That move elicited a rare personal response from Montgomery, who wrote in an affidavit that she was concerned about more turmoil.

“The news that the court is trying to take away one of my lawyers has shaken my confidence in how my case will be handled from here on out,” Montgomery wrote.



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