Lisa Montgomery is a 52-year-old Kansas woman who will be one of the first women to be executed under a federal warrant in 67 years, according to The New York Times. She was accused of — and eventually confessed to — killing a pregnant woman, cutting the baby from her womb and keeping the child as her own.
The baby survived and is now 16 years old, The Times reported. However, the mother, Bobbie Jo Stinnett, died after being strangled by Montgomery. Montgomery’s lawyer has tried, unsuccessfully, to Montgomery removed from death row by pointing out how her traumatic childhood should be considered a mitigating factor.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Montgomery Said That She Was Abused Throughout Childhood
According to court documents from Montgomery’s death penalty appeal, Montgomery — whose maiden name was Movant — was physically and sexually abused by her biological and stepfather.
The court record noted that Montgomery’s father was an alcoholic and her mother drank alcohol “to the point of inebriation” while pregnant with Montgomery. Her parents divorced when she was three and her half-sister, Diane, was removed from the home. Later on, Diane Mattingly, Montgomery’s half-sister testified that she remembered “walking on egg shells” as a child and “being made to feel like she was not good enough.”
Montgomery’s stepfather, Jack Kleiner, “sexually assault(ed) Movant around the age of fourteen” and in February of 1984, her mother divorced Kleiner after she saw him raping Montgomery, according to the court record. Kleiner was not prosecuted for the abuse and from that point on, Montgomery “endured a tumultuous relationship with her mother.”
Court records show that Montgomery married her step-brother, Carl Boman, once she turned 18. After they divorced, Montgomery married Kevin Montgomery.
According to the Des Moines Register, Lisa and Kevin Montgomery lived in a farmhouse very close to town. They also described her as friendly, but some said she was odd. June Harred, the owner of a barbershop, told The New York Daily that she had been suspicious of Montgomery after hearing that she had had an earlier miscarriage. “She wasn’t all there,” Harred said. “Everybody that’s met her said she’s not quite right.”
The Des Moines Register reported that Montgomery worked at Casey’s Carry Out Pizza while The New York Daily News reported that Kevin worked as an electrician. The Daily News also said the couple had a “back-to-the-land” lifestyle, raising livestock and using a spinning wheel they had to make wool.
2. Montgomery’s First Husband Said That She Had a History of Faking Pregnancies
Montgomery had four children between January of 1987 and 1990 with Boman, according to court records. According to a 2007 Associated Press wire story featured in The Manhattan Mercury, Boman testified that after her fourth child was born more than two months premature, a doctor recommended that she undergo tubal litigation because he was “afraid (she) would not be able to carry another pregnancy to term.”
Court records detail that, in 1990, “Montgomery claimed that her mother and Boman forced her to undergo the sterilization procedure.” A pretrial examination of Montgomery found that she would have been unable to conceive the baby she later confessed to kidnapping.
However, Boman testified that Montgomery told him she was pregnant twice after she had the procedure before they split up. Boman also testified that he had a court date set — January of 2005 — to gain custody of two of the four children they had together and he planned on using evidence of her faked pregnancies to win. That was also reflected in the court record:
Throughout the fall of 2004, Montgomery was involved in a custody dispute with Boman. He knew that Montgomery was unable to become pregnant and that she was again claiming that she was pregnant. He and his wife sent emails to Montgomery, telling her that they planned to expose her deception and use it against her in the custody proceedings. Montgomery said that she would prove them wrong. On December 10, 2004, days before the kidnapping, Boman filed a motion for change of custody of the two minor children who lived with
The AP story in The Manhattan Mercury also reported how Montgomery’s husband at the time of Stinnett’s murder, Kevin Montgomery, testified that she also lied to him about being pregnant. The first time she was pregnant, he said that she told him she was going to New Mexico to have an abortion. The second time she was pregnant, he said that she told him she had miscarried and donated the baby’s body “to science.”
Boman testified that he “noticed a change of attitude in Montgomery” and described her as more confident in November of 2004, according to that AP story. “She said she was going to prove me wrong,” Boman said.
3. Montgomery Killed Bobbie Jo Stinnett in December of 2004
According to court records, Montgomery started using the alias “Darlene Fischer” online and reached out to Stinnett on December 15, inquiring about a litter of puppies that Stinnett was advertising. She drove to Melvern and showed up at her home the next afternoon at 12:30 p.m. Stinnett was on the phone with her mother, Becky Harper, at 2:30 p.m. and told her mother Montgomery said she would give her a ride at 3:30 p.m.
After the call, Montgomery strangled Stinnett with a phone cord and then used a kitchen knife to try and get the baby out, court records show. When Stinnett felt the knife cutting into her skin, she woke up and Montgomery strangled her a second time until she was dead. She then took the fetus from Stinnett’s body, cut the umbilical cord and drove off. She eventually clamped the cord and cleaned the baby’s face with wipes.
The court record reported that Montgomery called Kevin and told him she had “gone into labor while Christmas shopping and that she had given birth at a women’s clinic in Topeka.” They met at a lot near a clinic and drove home together while Montgomery’s children followed them in her car.
Here is how the Department of Justice described the crime:
In December 2004, as part of a premeditated murder-kidnap scheme, Montgomery drove from her home in Kansas to Stinnett’s home in Missouri, purportedly to purchase a puppy. Once inside the residence, Montgomery attacked and strangled Stinnett—who was eight months pregnant—until the victim lost consciousness. Using a kitchen knife, Montgomery then cut into Stinnett’s abdomen, causing her to regain consciousness. A struggle ensued, and Montgomery strangled Stinnett to death. Montgomery then removed the baby from Stinnett’s body, took the baby with her, and attempted to pass it off as her own.
The baby survived, as a sheriff from Nodaway County, Missouri told reporters in 2004. “The child appears to be healthy and in good shape. We have no indication that the child was hurt in any way,” Ben F. Espy said, according to The New York Times. The baby’s mother, however, was not so fortunate. “It was a pretty gruesome sight,” the sheriff added about the crime scene.
4. Montgomery Showed Off the Infant After the Kidnapping
Several newspapers at the time reported that Montgomery showed off the baby. Montgomery, who was 36 at the time, dressed the baby in a “Winnie the Pooh” outfit, according to The Des Moines Register, and took her around town.
According to what Kathy Dewey, a church song-leader in Melvern told the Des Moines Register, Montgomery told her that she chose the name Abigail for the baby because she “wanted a name from the Bible.” However, Dewey said she didn’t believe what Montgomery had been telling people — that she had gone shopping in Topeka, Kansas and delivered her baby at a women’s center there.
The New York Daily News reported that Montgomery gave her children photos to bring to school and she also took Stinnett’s baby to a local diner. The owner of the diner, Kathy Sage, said she was shocked when Montgomery told her the baby was only one day old. “I was irate,” Sage said. “You don’t bring a newborn out in public.”
An Amber alert went out for the baby shortly after Harper, Stinnett’s mother, walked home because her daughter never showed to pick her up. According to the court record, when she got home and saw her daughter, “Harper said that it looked like Stinnett’s stomach had exploded.”
According to an affidavit from the case, Harper told police about the phone call and how someone was coming to her daughter’s residence to get a puppy; police used information from Stinnett’s computer and discovered “Darlene Flescher.” With more forensic digging and by tracing the IP address from the women’s computer correspondence, police were able to figure out that “Fischer” was an alias for Montgomery and showed up to her home.
When he arrived, Montgomery gave varying statements as to how she had come by a newborn baby, according to court records. Here are some of the things she told Sergeant Investigator Randy Strong:
- She said she had given birth at a women’s clinic in Topeka
- She said that she had given birth at home with two friends and lied to her husband.
- She said that she had given birth at home alone and had two friends on standby via phone
- Montgomery said she had given birth in her kitchen and placed the placenta in a creek
Montgomery was eventually taken to the sheriff’s office where court records state that “Montgomery confessed to killing Stinnett, removing the fetus from Stinnett’s womb, and abducting the child.”
5. Montgomery’s Execution Has Been Scheduled for December 8, 2020
After confessing to the murder, Montgomery was sentenced to death in 2008. The Department of Justice released a statement revealing the date of Montgomery’s execution “by lethal injection on December 8, 2020.” The execution is to be carried out at U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute, Indiana.
Montgomery’s lawyer, assistant public defender Kelley Henry, has tried to argue that her traumatic childhood caused mental illness and emotional distress for Montgomery that should make her ineligible for the death penalty, according to The New York Times.
“In the grip of her mental illness, Lisa committed a terrible crime,” Henry said in a statement, according to The Guardian. “Yet she immediately expressed profound remorse and was willing to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence with no possibility of release.