Murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett

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Memorial to Bobbie Jo Stinnett in downtown Skidmore, Missouri

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,[1] then aged 36, was convicted of strangling Stinnett from behind and then removing Stinnett's unborn child, eight months into gestation, from her womb. The child was later safely recovered by authorities.

Montgomery is currently incarcerated on death row; she is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on January 12, 2021, at the United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute. She will be the first female federal inmate in 67 years to be executed by the U.S. federal government, and is one of the 55 women on death row in the United States.[2][3]

Investigation results[edit]

Bobbie Jo Stinnett was eight months pregnant with her first child. She and her husband ran a dog-breeding business from their residence.[4] Montgomery met Stinnett online in a Rat Terrier chatroom called "Ratter Chatter".[5]

It is known that Stinnett was expecting the arrival in Skidmore, Missouri, of prospective buyers for a terrier at about the time of her murder.[6] Montgomery told Stinnett that she, too, was pregnant, leading to the two women chatting online and exchanging e-mails about their pregnancies.[6]:155 Additionally, there was no sign of forced entry. Authorities now believe that Montgomery, posing as customer "Darlene Fischer", arranged to visit Stinnett's house on that day. On December 16, 2004, Montgomery entered the house, strangled Stinnett, and cut the premature infant from her womb.[4]

It was speculated that Montgomery's motivation stemmed from a miscarriage she may have suffered and subsequently concealed from her family.[7] How or whether Montgomery had recently become pregnant is unclear. 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.[8]

The case[edit]

Stinnett was discovered by her mother, Becky Harper, in a pool of blood about an hour after the assault.[9] Harper immediately called 9-1-1. Harper described the wounds inflicted upon her daughter as appearing as if her "stomach had exploded".[10] Attempts by paramedics to revive Stinnett were unsuccessful, and she was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital in Maryville.[11]

The next day, December 17, 2004, Montgomery was arrested at her farmhouse in Melvern, Kansas, where the newborn had been claimed as her own and was recovered.[12] The day-old baby was placed in the custody of her father.[13] The quick recovery and capture was attributed to, in part, the use of forensic computer investigation, which tracked Montgomery and Stinnett's online communication with one another. Both bred rat terriers and may have attended dog shows together. The later investigation was also aided by the issuance of an AMBER alert to enlist the public's help. The alert was initially denied because it had never been used in an unborn case and thus there was no description of the victim. Eventually, after intervention by Congressman Sam Graves it was implemented. When authorities went to speak to Montgomery they found her in the living room holding the baby and watching television with the AMBER alert flashing on the screen.[14] DNA testing was used to confirm the infant's identity.


Lisa Montgomery
Lisa Montgomery.png
Lisa Marie Montgomery

(1968-02-27) February 27, 1968 (age 52)
Criminal statusIncarcerated on death row at Federal Medical Center, Carswell
Criminal chargeKidnapping resulting in death
PenaltyDeath via lethal injection, scheduled for January 12, 2021 at the United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute[2]
DateDecember 16 2004
CountryUnited States
Date apprehended
December 17 2004

Lisa Marie Montgomery (born February 27, 1968)[15] resided in Melvern, Kansas at the time of the murder.[16] She was raised in an abusive home where it is claimed she was raped by her stepfather for many years.[17] She sought escape mentally by drinking alcohol.[17] When Montgomery was 14, her mother discovered the abuse, but reacted by threatening her daughter with a gun.[17] She tried to escape this situation by marrying at the age of 18, but both the first marriage and a second marriage resulted in further abuse.[17]

Montgomery had four children before she underwent a tubal ligation in 1990.[15] Montgomery falsely claimed to be pregnant several times after the procedure, according to both her first and second spouses.[15]

Trial and ruling[edit]

Montgomery was charged with the federal offense of "kidnapping resulting in death",[12] a crime established by the Federal Kidnapping Act of 1932,[11] and described in Title 18 of the United States Code. If convicted, she faced a sentence of life imprisonment or the death penalty.[11]

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.[18] 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.[19] 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 describe her background to the jury.[17]

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.[20][21] Ramachandran testified that Montgomery's stories about her actions fluctuated because her delusional state fluctuated, and that she was unable to appreciate the nature and quality of her acts.[22] Both federal prosecutor Roseann Ketchmark and the opposing expert witness forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz disagreed strongly with the diagnosis of pseudocyesis.[23][24]

On October 22, 2007, jurors found Montgomery guilty rejecting the defense claim Montgomery was delusional.[23] On October 26, the jury recommended a death sentence.[25] Judge Gary A. Fenner formally sentenced Montgomery to death.[12] On April 4, 2008, a judge upheld the jury's recommendation for death.[26]

However, Duchardt's aforementioned pseudocyesis defense, Montgomery's past trauma and separate diagnoses of mental illness were not fully revealed to the jury until after her conviction, by her appeals team. This led critics, including the Guardian journalist David Rose, to argue that Duchardt provided an incompetent legal defense for Montgomery.[17] Fenner required Duchardt to be cross-examined in November 2016. Duchardt rejected all criticism and defended his conduct.[17]


On March 19, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Montgomery's certiorari petition.[27] Montgomery, who is registered for the Federal Bureau of Prisons under number 11072-031, was as of 2017 incarcerated at Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, where she will remain until she is transferred to the site of her execution.[28][29] She is currently the only woman with a federal death sentence incarcerated at that facility.

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. Montgomery falsely claimed to be pregnant several times after tubal ligation.[15][17] 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.[17]

Montgomery's scheduled execution on December 8, 2020, by lethal injection at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana was delayed following her attorneys' contracting COVID-19.[30][31] On November 23, 2020, Montgomery was given a new execution date of January 12, 2021.[32]

Only three women have been executed by the U.S. federal government: in 1865, Mary Surratt, by hanging; in 1953, Ethel Rosenberg, by electric chair; and – also in 1953 – Bonnie Heady by gas chamber. Heady grew up in Clearmont, Missouri, also in Nodaway County, 20 miles (32 km) north of Skidmore; she is buried in Clearmont.[33]

Popular culture[edit]

The case was described in the books, Baby Be Mine, by author Diane Fanning[34] and Murder in the Heartland by M. William Phelps.[11] This case was featured in an episode of the true crime series Deadly Women titled "Fatal Obsession". The case was also featured 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]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Michale Balsamo (October 18, 2020). "Feds to execute a woman for the first time in more than six decades". Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  3. ^ Maya Oppenheim (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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "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...
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Baby found alive; woman arrested". CNN. December 18, 2004. Archived from the original on January 20, 2005. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  8. ^ Associated Press (October 10, 2007). "Accused Killer of Pregnant Kansas Woman Showed Off Extracted Baby as Own". Fox News. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ a b c d Phelps, M. William (2006). Murder in the Heartland. New York City: Kensington Books. ISBN 9780758217240.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "Dad united with kidnapped girl". CNN. December 19, 2004. Archived from the original on October 29, 2007. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b c d 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.
  16. ^ "Kansas Town Stunned By Kidnap-Murder Case". WKMG-TV. December 19, 2004. Archived from the original on September 22, 2007. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i 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.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "Jury considers death for convicted fetus thief". NBC News. October 24, 2007. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ "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.
  22. ^ "US v. Montgomery, Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit 2011". Google Scholar. U.S. Court of Appeals. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  23. ^ a b "US woman guilty of 'womb theft'". BBC News. Archived from the original on June 13, 2017. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  24. ^ "Montgomery Trial: Insanity Argument Called Into Question". St. Joseph News-Press. October 19, 2007. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  25. ^ Hollingsworth, Heather (October 27, 2007). "Pregnant woman's killer deserves death, jury says". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  26. ^ Mears, Bill (April 4, 2008). "Woman gets death sentence in fetus-snatching murder". CNN. Archived from the original on August 14, 2009.
  27. ^ "Lisa M. Montgomery, Petitioner v. United States". Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  28. ^ "Lisa M Montgomery (inmate entry)". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  29. ^ Montaldo, Charles (April 7, 2008). "Lisa Montgomery Sentenced to Death". Archived from the original on June 11, 2011. Retrieved October 3, 2010.
  30. ^ "Lisa Montgomery to be first female federal inmate executed in 67 years". The Guardian. 2020-10-17. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  31. ^ Balsamo, Michael (19 November 2020). "Judge halts federal execution after lawyers contract virus". AP News. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ 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.

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