Victoria Jo Stinnett was the baby daughter of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was cut from her mother’s womb in a murder committed by Lisa Montgomery. Montgomery died by lethal injection Wednesday, January 13, 2021, becoming the first woman to be federally executed in the United States in nearly seven decades.
Stinnett survived the gruesome caesarian birth and was rescued after an Amber Alert was put out to find her. Today, she is 16 years old.
Montgomery’s lawyers attempted to stay her execution, citing a history of sexual abuse they say caused mental illness which made 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. Victoria Jo Was Rescued the Day After She Was Kidnapped by Montgomery, Who Handed Her Over to Law Enforcement
Law enforcement located Victoria Jo the day after her mother’s death. Officials put out an Amber Alert for the baby, not knowing whether she was dead or alive and having no knowledge of what the baby looked like. Randy Strong, who was a part of the northwest Missouri major case squad at the time, described the moment he found the baby with Montgomery in an interview with the Associated Press.
“As we walked across the threshold our Amber Alert was scrolling across the TV at that very moment,” he said.
The AP reported Strong was “awash in relief” when Montgomery handed the baby over. He had spent the previous night without sleeping, digging into the case in hopes of finding Stinnett’s daughter alive. Investigators received tips about Montgomery in the hours after the murder, learning she “had a history of faking pregnancies and suddenly had a baby.” On the drive to Montgomery’s home 170 miles from Stinnett’s house in Skidmore, Missouri, he learned the email address used to set up the meeting with Stinnett to buy a puppy had been sent from Montgomery’s home.
“I absolutely knew I was walking into the killer’s home,” he recalled.
2. Victoria Jo Is Now 16 Years Old & Is Being Raised by Her Dad, Zeb
Victoria Jo is being raised by her dad, Zeb Stinnett, with the help of other family members, according to The Sun. Victoria Jo turned 16 on December 16, 2004. On that day, her father sent a thank you message to Randy Strong, who was one of the lead investigators in the case.
“I just wept,” Strong told the Associated Press. “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.”
Federal prosecutor Matt Whitworth also noted, “every time [Victoria] has a birthday, it will also be the anniversary of the slaughter of her mother – every year, for the rest of her life,” according to The Sun.
3. Family & Friends Say Victoria Jo Reminds Them of Her Mother
Victoria Jo reminds Stinnett’s friends and family of her mother, 41 Action News reported. Bobbie Jo Stinnett’s friend, Jena Baumli, told the news outlet she had hoped her children and Stinnett’s children would grow up 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.”
Baumli and Stinnett went to high school together. She said she hoped Montgomery’s execution would bring peace and closure to Stinnett’s loved ones.
“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.”
4. Victoria Jo Has Never Spoken Publicly About the Murder
Victoria Jo’s family has successfully shielded her from the media spotlight. Stinnett has never spoken publicly about her mother, the murder or Montgomery, according to the Associated Press.
After Zeb Stinnett was reunited with his daughter, he said, “It’s been emotional,” according to The Sun. “But, I just look at [the baby], pick her up and that usually does it.”
Zeb Stinnett was the one who named his daughter. He said that she was a “miracle.”
Victoria Jo was released from the hospital the night before her mother’s funeral.
“The baby is fine. The baby is doing great,” U.S. Attorney Todd Graves said at the time, according to The Sun.
5. Montgomery Pretended Victoria Jo Was Her Baby in an Attempt to Keep Custody of Her Children
Snatching Stinnett’s baby was part of a plot to maintain custody of her own children, prosecutors said at Montgomery’s trial. She had a history of lying about pregnancies, and at the time of the murder, she again claimed to be pregnant. Montgomery’s ex-husband knew she had a medical procedure that would prevent her from becoming pregnant again, and he planned to disclose the information at an upcoming custody hearing, according to the Associated Press.
Instead, Montgomery devised a plot to pass off Stinnett’s baby as her own. After strangling Stinnett and cutting Victoria Jo from her womb, she showed off the baby. The Associated Press reported Montgomery called her husband and asked him to pick her up in the parking lot of a Long John Silver’s in Topeka, Kansas. She told him she gave birth earlier that day at a nearby birthing center.
Montgomery eventually confessed to the murder to authorities. The rope she used to strangle Stinnett and the kitchen knife she used to cut the baby from her body were found in her car. Law enforcement found Montgomery used her computer to research caesareans and to order a birthing kit.
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?”