Bobbie Jo Stinnett is the woman who was murdered by Lisa Montgomery when she was eight months pregnant in 2004. Montgomery was executed Wednesday, January 13, 2021, in Indiana, becoming the first woman to be federally executed in more than 67 years.
Montgomery, 52, was convicted of kidnapping resulting in death. She was sentenced to death by lethal injection for killing Stinnett by strangling her and then cutting her baby from her womb on December 16, 2004, in Skidmore, Missouri. The baby, Victoria Jo, survived and Montgomery pretended the child was her own. Montgomery was executed at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. Montgomery lived in Melvern, Kansas, about 170 miles from Stinnett, according to the Associated Press.
Prosecutors said Montgomery’s motive was an attempt to maintain custody of two of her four children. Her ex-husband knew she had undergone a procedure that made her sterile, and he planned to reveal she was lying about being pregnant at an upcoming court date. She believed she needed a baby to prove him wrong and keep her children. Montgomery’s lawyers attempted to stay the execution, saying she had a history of sexual abuse that led to mental illness, making her unable to understand her death sentence, according to Fox News. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the stay.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Stinnett Was a Dog Breeder & Montgomery Was at Her Home Saying She Wanted to Buy a Puppy
Stinnett, 23, was a dog breeder who lived in northwestern Missouri, in a small farming town called Skidmore. Montgomery traveled to Stinnett’s home the day of the murder, saying she was interested in buying a rat terrier puppy, according to the Associated Press.
Montgomery also raised rat terriers. Stinnett and Montgomery knew each other before the deadly meeting. They became acquainted at dog shows.
The couple chatted online before meeting under the guise of selling a puppy, according to KSHB.
At the time of the murder, Stinnett and her husband, Zeb Stinnett, were hoping to move out of their small rental cottage and into a home of their own. Bobbie Jo Stinnett was raising money for their future home with her dog-breeding business, according to the New York Post.
2. Stinnett’s Husband, Zeb, Said His World ‘Crashed to an End’ When His Wife Was Murdered
Stinnett’s husband, Zeb Stinnett, told jurors at Montgomery’s trial that his world “crashed to an end” at the time of the gruesome murder. On December 16, 2021, the day of his wife’s death and his daughter’s 16th birthday, he sent a message to Randy Strong, who was an investigator in the murder and kidnapping case. The message was a thank you note, Strong told the Associated Press.
“I just wept,” Strong said. “He is going to constantly be reminded of this whether in his nightmares or somebody is going to call and want to interview him. The family doesn’t want to be interviewed. They want to be left alone. The community of Skidmore has had a troubling past and history. They didn’t want this. They didn’t deserve this.”
Zeb and Bobbie Jo Stinnett were childhood sweethearts, according to The Sun.
Sandra Babcock, one of Montgomery’s attorneys, told 41 Action News that the decision to execute Montgomery is not a question of guilt.
“The issue in this case has never been about whether she is legally guilty; she is,” she said. “The question is whether she deserves to die for her crime and that question is a much more complex one that revolves around her moral culpability as opposed to her legal culpability. Is this the kind of person that is so sadistic, so irredeemable, that she deserves to be eliminated from the human race?”
3. Stinnett’s Mom Was the One Who Found Her & She Told a Dispatcher ‘It’s Like She Exploded’
Stinnett’s mom, Becky Harper, found her daughter in a pool of blood with her stomach cut open and her baby missing, according to the Associated Press.
“It’s like she exploded or something,” Harper told a dispatcher, sobbing.
Prosecutors argued that Stinnett regained consciousness as Montgomery cut her baby from her womb with a kitchen knife, and tried to defend herself.
Stinnett was supposed to take her mom to a garage to have work done on her vehicle, Harper told the New York Post.
“I keep thinking, I wish I had gone over there earlier,” she said. “She wanted [the baby] so bad, and now she’s not even going to get to raise her.”
4. Stinnett’s Friend, Jena Baumli, Said She Was in Favor of Montgomery’s Execution
Jena Baumli, who was a high school friend of Stinnett, disagreed that Montgomery should be spared from the death penalty. In an interview with KSHB, she said she hoped Montgomery’s execution would bring peace and closure to Stinnett’s loved ones.
“I think she’s very competent and I would like her to get the needle,” Baumli said.
Skidmore is a close-knit community, Baumli told the news station. The brutal murder still casts a pall over the town 16 years later. She hopes that after the execution, Montgomery’s name fades away.
“I’m hoping for closure, peace,” Baumli said. “And then from here on out, block anything that has Lisa Montgomery’s name on it, because I think I’ve seen her name enough in one lifetime.”
5. Stinnett Was ‘One of the Sweetest People You Would Ever Meet,’ Said Her Friend
Baumli told KSHB that Stinnett was a sweet person with a good heart.
“Bobbie Jo was one of the sweetest people you’d ever meet,” she said. “I guess that saying, ‘bad things always happen to good people,’ that was one of these cases.”
Baumli said their future could have involved their children growing up together in the small town where she and Stinnett attended school together.
“It hurts my heart,” Baumli said. “Lisa took a lot of our dreams away from us. Bobbie Jo and our kids playing together or going to school together or doing the same things we did when we were kids was all taken from us.”