Murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett

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Murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett
Stinnett-memorial.jpg
Memorial to Bobbie Jo Stinnett in Skidmore, Missouri
LocationSkidmore, Missouri, U.S.
DateDecember 16, 2004
Attack type
Murder by strangulation, stabbing, kidnapping
WeaponKnife
Deaths1 (Bobbie Jo Stinnett)
ConvictedLisa Marie Montgomery
VerdictGuilty
ConvictionsKidnapping resulting in death
SentenceDeath
External images
image icon Bobbie Jo Stinnett, in 2000 yearbook picture from Nodaway-Holt Junior Senior High [1]
image icon The home of Bobbi Jo Stinnett, in Skidmore, Missouri, December 17, 2004.[2]

Bobbie Jo Stinnett (December 4, 1981 – December 16, 2004) was a pregnant 23-year-old American woman found murdered in her home in Skidmore, Missouri. The perpetrator, Lisa Marie Montgomery,[3] then aged 36, strangled Stinnett and cut her unborn fetus, eight months into gestation, from her womb. The baby was safely recovered by authorities and returned to the father.[4]

Montgomery was tried and found guilty in 2007. She was executed by lethal injection shortly after midnight on January 13, 2021, having exhausted the appeals process. She thus became the first female federal inmate in 67 years to be executed by the United States federal government, and the fourth overall.[5][6][7]

Background[edit]

Stinnett graduated from Nodaway-Holt High School in Graham, Missouri, in 2000.[8] Stinnett and her husband ran a dog-breeding business from their residence.[9]

Stinnett and Montgomery met through dog show events and had ongoing interactions in an online Rat Terrier chatroom called Ratter Chatter.[10][11] Montgomery told Stinnett that she was pregnant too, leading to the two women chatting online and exchanging e-mails about their pregnancies.[12]: 155 

Murder and investigation[edit]

On December 16, 2004, Montgomery entered Stinnett's house and murdered her by strangulation. Montgomery then cut Stinnett's unborn child from her womb and fled the scene.[5] There was no sign of forced entry; authorities believe that Montgomery, posing as customer "Darlene Fischer", had arranged to visit Stinnett's house on that day.[9] It is known that Stinnett was expecting the arrival in Skidmore of prospective buyers for a terrier at about the time of her murder.[12]

Stinnett was discovered by her mother Becky Harper, lying in a pool of blood, approximately an hour after the murder.[13] Harper immediately called authorities and described the wounds inflicted upon her daughter as appearing as if her "stomach had exploded."[14] Paramedics were unsuccessful in attempts to revive Stinnett, and she was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital in Maryville.[15] Montgomery allegedly called her husband, Kevin, that same day around 5:15 p.m. saying that, on a shopping trip to Topeka, she had gone into labor and given birth.

The following day, December 17, police arrested Montgomery at her farmhouse in Melvern, Kansas. A witness would later report that on the morning before her arrest, Montgomery took the infant, her husband, and two teenage sons to a restaurant for breakfast. Police had initially gone to Montgomery's home after tracing online communications to her IP address, hoping to interview her as a witness.[16] When they arrived, they found a car matching the description of the one at the crime scene, and when they entered the home, they found Montgomery inside, holding the infant, and watching television. Montgomery was arrested an hour later after her story fell apart and she confessed.[16] The kidnapped newborn, whom she claimed as her own, was recovered and soon placed in custody of the father.[17][18] The quick recovery and capture was attributed to the use of forensic computer investigations which tracked Montgomery and Stinnett's online communication.

The investigation was aided by the issuance of an AMBER alert to enlist the public's help. The alert was initially denied as it had not been used before in an unborn child's case and thus there was no description of the victim. Eventually after intervention by Congressman Sam Graves, the alert was implemented.[16] DNA testing was used to confirm the infant's identity.[19]

Perpetrator[edit]

Lisa Montgomery
Lisa Montgomery.png
Born(1968-02-27)February 27, 1968
Melvern, Kansas, U.S.
DiedJanuary 13, 2021(2021-01-13) (aged 52)
Cause of deathExecution by lethal injection
Criminal statusExecuted
Spouse(s)Kevin Montgomery
Conviction(s)Kidnapping resulting in death (18 U.S.C. § 1201)
Criminal penaltyDeath by lethal injection
Details
VictimsBobbie Jo Stinnett, 23
DateDecember 16, 2004
CountryUnited States
State(s)Missouri
Date apprehended
December 17, 2004

Lisa Marie Montgomery (February 27, 1968 – January 13, 2021)[20] resided in Melvern, Kansas, at the time of the murder.[21] Montgomery's mother's alcohol addiction led to Lisa being born with permanent brain damage.[22] She was raised in a physically, emotionally and sexually abusive home where she was allegedly raped by her stepfather and his friends, and beaten, from the age of 11.[5] She sought mental escape through drinking alcohol. When Montgomery was 14, her mother discovered the abuse and reacted by threatening her daughter with a gun.[23] Montgomery tried to escape by marrying at the age of 18, but both her first marriage and a second marriage resulted in further abuse.[23]

Montgomery had four children before she underwent a tubal ligation in 1990.[20] She falsely claimed to be pregnant several times after the procedure according to both her first and second spouses.[20][24]

At the time of her arrest, it was speculated that Montgomery's motivation stemmed from a miscarriage she may have suffered and subsequently concealed from her family.[25] Further possibilities surrounding her motive were raised following speculation that her former husband planned to reveal she had lied about being pregnant in an effort to get custody of her children; it was surmised that Montgomery needed to produce a baby to counter this charge of habitual lying about pregnancy.[26]

Trial and ruling[edit]

Montgomery was charged with the federal offense of "kidnapping resulting in death",[17] a crime established by the Federal Kidnapping Act of 1932,[15] and described in Title 18 of the United States Code. If convicted, she faced a sentence of life imprisonment or the death penalty.[15]

At a pre-trial hearing, a neuropsychologist testified that head injuries which Montgomery had sustained some years before could have damaged the part of the brain that controls aggression.[27] During her trial in federal court, her defense attorneys, led by Frederick Duchardt, asserted that she had pseudocyesis, a mental condition that causes a woman to falsely believe she is pregnant and exhibit outward signs of pregnancy.[28] According to The Guardian, Duchardt attempted to follow this line of defense only one week before the trial began after being forced to abandon a contradictory argument that Stinnett was murdered by Montgomery's brother Tommy, who had an alibi. As a result, Montgomery's family refused to co-operate with Duchardt and described her background to the jury.[23]

Dr. V. S. Ramachandran and MD William Logan gave expert testimony that Montgomery had pseudocyesis in addition to depression, borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.[29][30] Ramachandran testified that Montgomery's stories about her actions fluctuated because of her delusional state and that she was unable to dictate the nature and quality of her acts.[31] Both federal prosecutor Roseann Ketchmark and the opposing expert witness forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz disagreed strongly with the diagnosis of pseudocyesis.[32][33]

On October 22, 2007, jurors found Montgomery guilty, rejecting the defense claim that Montgomery was delusional.[32] On October 26, the jury recommended the death sentence.[34] Judge Gary A. Fenner formally sentenced Montgomery to death.[17] On April 4, 2008, a judge upheld the jury's recommendation for death.[35]

Duchardt's pseudocyesis defense, Montgomery's past trauma and separate diagnosis of mental illness were not fully revealed until after her conviction. This led critics including Guardian journalist David Rose to argue that Duchardt provided an incompetent legal defense for Montgomery.[23] Fenner required Duchardt to be cross-examined in November 2016. Duchardt rejected all criticism and defended his conduct.[23]

Subsequent legal proceedings[edit]

On March 19, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Montgomery's certiorari petition.[36] Montgomery, who was registered for the Federal Bureau of Prisons under number 11072-031, was incarcerated at Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, where she remained until she was transferred to the site of her execution.[37][38][39][40] For a long time, she was the only woman with a federal death sentence at Federal Medical Center, Carswell (FMC Carswell).[41][42]

During her appeals, Montgomery's lawyers argued that she technically did not commit the crime of kidnapping resulting in death, claiming that Victoria Jo Stinnett was not considered a person until she was removed from her mother's womb. Accordingly, since Bobbi had died beforehand, the crime was instead a "death resulting in kidnapping." That claim was dismissed, with the courts saying the felony murder rule nullified this and that Montgomery needed to kill Bobbi regardless in order to complete the kidnapping.[43]

Experts who examined Montgomery after conviction concluded that by the time of her crime she had long been living with psychosis, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorders. She was said to be often disassociated from reality and to have permanent brain damage from numerous beatings at the hands of her parents and spouses.[23] The case of Atkins v. Virginia ruled that executing individuals with intellectual disability violates the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution regarding cruel and unusual punishments. Given this ruling, it could be expected that Montgomery was ineligible for a death sentence. Very strong and undisputed evidence can lead to a withdrawal of the death sentence or a further enquiry into it.[44] Montgomery was scheduled for execution on December 8, 2020, by lethal injection at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, but this was delayed following her attorneys contracting COVID-19.[45][46] On December 23, 2020, Montgomery was given a new execution date of January 12, 2021.[47] U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss found that "the director's order setting a new execution date while the Court's stay was in effect was 'not in accordance with law'", prohibiting the re-scheduling of the execution before January 1, 2022.[41]

On January 1, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated Moss's ruling, effectively reinstating her execution date of January 12.[48] On that date, federal judge Patrick Hanlon granted a stay of her execution on the grounds that her mental competence must first be tested as it could be argued she did not understand the grounds for her execution, per the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[49] The stay was then vacated by the Supreme Court via a 6–3 vote. The execution was ordered to be carried out immediately.[11][50] She arrived in Terre Haute's death row on January 12.[51]

Execution[edit]

Montgomery was executed by lethal injection[11] on January 13, 2021, at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. When asked if she had any last words, she replied: "No."[11] She was pronounced dead at 1:31 a.m. EST.[11]

She became the first female federal prisoner executed in 67 years, the first woman executed in the United States since Kelly Gissendaner in 2015, and the first person executed in the United States in 2021.[6][7] Only three other women have been executed by the U.S. federal government: Mary Surratt, by hanging in 1865; Ethel Rosenberg by electric chair in 1953; and Bonnie Heady by gas chamber also in 1953.[52] Montgomery's execution was followed a day later by Corey Johnson, and three days later by Dustin Higgs. They were the last three executions under the presidency of Donald Trump, occurring in a lame-duck period. All three were carried out by the United States federal government, each being controversial for a variety of reasons.[53][54]

Jessica Lussenhop of the BBC stated that most Skidmore residents supported Montgomery's execution.[8]

In her final days, Montgomery had kept a calendar marked with Joe Biden's inauguration date. Joe Biden has promised to enact a moratorium on capital punishment at the federal level.[55]

Aftermath[edit]

Members of the Nodaway-Holt High Class of 2000 have a yearly memorial donation drive for Stinnett.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

The case was described in author Diane Fanning's Baby Be Mine books,[56] and M. William Phelps's Murder in the Heartland.[15] The case featured in an episode of the true crime series Deadly Women titled "Fatal Obsession", in an episode of the true crime series Solved titled "Life and Death", and in the fifth episode of the documentary series No One Saw a Thing that aired on the Sundance Channel on August 29, 2019.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bobbie Jo Stinnett is shown in this 2000 yearbook picture from Nodaway-Holt Junior Senior High". Getty Images. STOLEN BABY: KRT US NEWS STORY SLUGGED: STOLENBABY KRT PHOTO VIA KANSAS CITY STAR (December 17) Bobbie Jo Stinnett is shown in this 2000 yearbook picture from Nodaway-Holt Junior Senior High. The 23-year-old woman was strangled on Thursday, December 16, 2004, and her eight-month-old baby was cut from her womb in Skidmore, Missouri. (mvw) 2004
  2. ^ Kozol, Greg Kozol. "Execution date rekindles memories in Skidmore". St. Joseph News-Press. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  3. ^ Parker, R. J.; Slate, J. J. (September 14, 2014). Social Media Monsters: Internet Killers. Rj Parker Publishing, Inc. ISBN 9781500487065. Retrieved January 13, 2021 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Hollingsworth, Heather (December 22, 2004). "Husband thought stolen baby was his". The Guardian.
  5. ^ a b c Smolinski, Paulina (January 12, 2021). "Federal government conducts its first execution of a woman since 1953". CBS News. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Michale Balsamo (October 18, 2020). "Feds to execute a woman for the first time in more than six decades". USA Today. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Oppenheim, Maya (October 18, 2020). "Lisa Montgomery: Woman who cut pregnant woman's body open to become first female prisoner executed in 67 years". The Independent. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Lussenhop, Jessica (January 13, 2021). "Lisa Montgomery: Looking for answers in the life of a killer". BBC. Retrieved January 23, 2021.
  9. ^ a b Kinzer, Stephen (December 18, 2004). "Baby Found in Kansas Is Thought to Be That of Slain Woman". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  10. ^ "Law Center: Couple allegedly showed off kidnapped baby; Dad united with daughter". CNN. December 20, 2004. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved April 27, 2009. The Internet chat room "Ratter Chatter," a haven for rat terrier lovers in cyberspace, was overwhelmed with responses from its users...
  11. ^ a b c d e Tarm, Michael; Hollingsworth, Heather (January 12, 2021). "US carries out its 1st execution of female inmate since 1953". AP News. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  12. ^ a b Dwyer, Kevin; Fiorillo, Juré (November 6, 2007). True Stories of Law & Order: SVU: The Real Crimes Behind the Best Episodes of the Hit TV Show. Penguin Group. ISBN 9781101220429.
  13. ^ Hart, James (October 4, 2007). "Bobbie Jo Stinnett's mother testifies about finding her daughter's body". Crime Scene KC. Archived from the original on August 18, 2009. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  14. ^ Sudekum Fisher, Maria (October 4, 2007). "Trial of Baby Cut From Womb Begins". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  15. ^ a b c d Phelps, M. William (2006). Murder in the Heartland. New York City: Kensington Books. ISBN 9780758217240.
  16. ^ a b c Hoppa, Kristin (August 1, 2015). "First responders remember brutal Skidmore murder". St. Joseph News-Press. Archived from the original on January 26, 2021.
  17. ^ a b c Marshall, John (April 8, 2008). "Lisa Montgomery gets death penalty for killing pregnant woman". Southeast Missourian. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  18. ^ "Dad united with kidnapped girl". CNN. December 19, 2004. Archived from the original on October 29, 2007. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  19. ^ Ricono, Angie (January 13, 2021). "Plans for the execution of Lisa Montgomery proceeding". KCTV Kansas City. Archived from the original on January 16, 2021. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  20. ^ a b c Hollingsworth, Heather (October 10, 2007). "Defendant Accused of Faking Pregnancies". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  21. ^ "Kansas Town Stunned By Kidnap-Murder Case". WKMG-TV. December 19, 2004. Archived from the original on September 22, 2007. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  22. ^ Babcock, Sandra. "Lisa Montgomery: A victim of Incest, Child Prosecution and Rape Faces Execution". Cornell Law School. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  23. ^ a b c d e f Rose, David (November 24, 2016). "Death row: the lawyer who keeps losing". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on July 31, 2017. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  24. ^ "Accused Killer of Pregnant Kansas Woman Showed Off Extracted Baby as Own". Fox News. Associated Press. October 10, 2007. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  25. ^ "Baby found alive; woman arrested". CNN. December 18, 2004. Archived from the original on January 20, 2005. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  26. ^ "US carries out its 1st execution of female inmate since 1953". Associated Press. January 13, 2021.
  27. ^ Summers, Chris (October 1, 2007). "The women who kill for babies". BBC News. Archived from the original on July 15, 2019. Retrieved October 26, 2007.
  28. ^ "Jury considers death for convicted fetus thief". NBC News. October 24, 2007. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  29. ^ "United States v. Montgomery, 635 F.3d 1074 (8th Cir. 2011)". Free Law Project. April 5, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2019. The government's expert, Park Dietz, M.D., agreed that Montgomery suffered from depression, borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder but did not diagnose her as suffering from pseudocyesis.
  30. ^ "Doctor cites mental illness in fetus-theft suspect". NBC News. October 17, 2007. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  31. ^ "US v. Montgomery, Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit 2011". Google Scholar. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  32. ^ a b "US woman guilty of 'womb theft'". BBC News. Archived from the original on June 13, 2017. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  33. ^ "Montgomery Trial: Insanity Argument Called Into Question". St. Joseph News-Press. October 19, 2007. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  34. ^ Hollingsworth, Heather (October 27, 2007). "Pregnant woman's killer deserves death, jury says". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  35. ^ Mears, Bill (April 4, 2008). "Woman gets death sentence in fetus-snatching murder". CNN. Archived from the original on August 14, 2009.
  36. ^ "Lisa M. Montgomery, Petitioner v. United States". Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  37. ^ "Lisa M Montgomery (inmate entry)". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  38. ^ "Inmate Locator". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved January 22, 2021. LISA M MONTGOMERY; BOP Register Number: 11072-031; Age: 52; Race: White; Sex: Female; Deceased: 01/13/2021;
  39. ^ "Offender Information: Lisa M. Montgomery" (PDF). Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved January 22, 2021. Offense Date: December 17, 2004; Jail Credit: From December 17, 2004 thru April 3, 2008; Sentenced on: April 4, 2008; Committed: April 21, 2008 to the Federal Bureau of Prisons;
  40. ^ Montaldo, Charles (April 7, 2008). "Lisa Montgomery Sentenced to Death". About.com. Archived from the original on June 11, 2011. Retrieved October 3, 2010.
  41. ^ a b The Associated Press (December 25, 2020). "Judge delays execution of only woman on U.S. death row". NBC News. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  42. ^ "Case Summaries for Current Female Death Row Inmates". Death Penalty Information Center. Archived from the original on May 24, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2021. CASE SUMMARIES FOR FEMALE OFFENDERS UNDER DEATH SENTENCES AS OF DECEMBER 31, 2012 https://web.archive.org/web/20130430042919/http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/FemDeathDec2012.pdf {{cite web}}: External link in |quote= (help)
  43. ^ "United States v. Lisa Montgomery, No. 08-1780 (8th Cir. 2011)". Justia Law. Retrieved May 10, 2022.
  44. ^ H. Blume, John (2014–2015). "A Tale of Two (and Possibly Three) Atkins: Intellectual Disability and Capital Punishment Twelve Years After the Supreme Court's Creation of a Categorical Bar". 23 (2). Retrieved March 24, 2021. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  45. ^ "Lisa Montgomery to be first female federal inmate executed in 67 years". The Guardian. October 17, 2020. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  46. ^ Balsamo, Michael (November 19, 2020). "Judge halts federal execution after lawyers contract virus". AP News. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  47. ^ "Execution rescheduled for only woman on federal death row". KMBC. Associated Press. November 24, 2020. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  48. ^ "Appeals court vacates order delaying Lisa Montgomery's execution". CBS News. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  49. ^ Carrega, Christina (January 12, 2021). "A federal judge has granted a stay of execution for the only woman on federal death row pending a competency hearing". CNN. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  50. ^ Rahman, Khaleda (January 13, 2021). "Lisa Montgomery Is Executed After U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Delay Ruling". Newsweek. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  51. ^ "Lisa Montgomery arrives at Terre Haute execution facility, official confirms". KSNT. January 12, 2012. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  52. ^ http://1.droppdf.com/files/cy6Or/zero-at-the-bone-the-playboy-the-prostit-john-heidenry.pdf[dead link]
  53. ^ Honderich, Holly (December 11, 2020). "In Trump's final days, a rush of federal executions". BBC News.
  54. ^ "Dustin Higgs: Final execution of Trump presidency is carried out". BBC News. January 16, 2021.
  55. ^ "Lisa Montgomery becomes first woman to be executed by federal government since 1953". The 19th. January 13, 2021. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  56. ^ Fanning, Diane (August 29, 2006). Baby Be Mine: The Shocking True Story of a Woman Who Murdered a Pregnant Mother to Steal Her Child. New York City: St. Martin's True Crime. ISBN 978-0312938734. Retrieved July 14, 2019.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°17′19″N 95°05′06″W / 40.28874°N 95.08487°W / 40.28874; -95.08487