Woman admits strangling Missouri mom, cutting baby out of womb

December 17, 2004 

MARYVILLE, Mo. (AP) - Missouri authorities arrested a woman Friday they allege went to the home of an eight-months pregnant woman - purportedly to buy a dog - then strangled her and cut the baby from her womb.

Authorities found the abducted infant in good health, ending a day of frantic searching.

A criminal complaint said Lisa Montgomery admitted she strangled Bobbie Jo Stinnett and took her baby. The complaint also said Montgomery lied to her husband about giving birth, although U.S. Attorney Todd Graves declined to give a motive for the crime.

Stinnett's mother found the 23-year-old nearly dead Thursday in her home in the northwestern Missouri town Skidmore. Paramedics tried to revive her but she was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The baby was found Friday in an eastern Kansas home; a red Honda hatchback matching a description offered earlier by police was in the driveway.

Although DNA tests were pending to confirm the baby's identity, authorities called off an Amber Alert issued for the child.

"We're confident we have the little girl that was taken from Skidmore," Nodaway County Sheriff Ben Espey said during a news conference in Maryville.

An FBI agent had said the father had already been reunited with the baby but officials with the bureau and the Topeka, Kan., hospital where the baby was taken later said that was not the case.

Montgomery, 36, of Melvern, Kan., was charged with kidnapping resulting in death, Graves said. Montgomery, a mother of two, had been pregnant but lost a child, Graves said, though it was unclear when or under what circumstances.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Sheldon Lyon said earlier in the day authorities were questioning a man and a woman who were in the place where the baby was found. Graves said the investigation was continuing but would not say if additional charges might be filed or if there was another suspect.

Graves said Montgomery contacted Stinnett through an online message board and authorities zeroed in on her using computer forensics. Montgomery was seeking to buy a dog from Stinnett, who raised rat terriers, he said.

The criminal complaint said Montgomery's husband, Kevin, told officers he received a call Thursday from his wife, who said she was in Topeka, Kan., about 65 kilometres from Melvern and had gone into labour and given birth.

Kevin Montgomery and the couple's two children met Lisa and the newborn at a parking lot in Topeka and drove home, the affidavit said.

The victim's mother, Becky Harper, said her daughter called her about an hour before she found her, authorities said. She apparently hung up when someone showed up for an appointment to look at her dogs.

"Oh, they're here," Stinnett told her mother, the affidavit said.

"I've got to go."

Espey said there was no indication of forced entry into Stinnett's small white home in Skidmore, a community of about 500.

Espey said he believes Stinnett was strangled and resisted the attack.

"The autopsy is going to show us there was some blond hair probably found in her hands," the sheriff said.

A neighbour, Bill Dragoo, said Stinnett and her husband "didn't bother anybody. It blows my mind that this happened."

"She was such a shy person. They didn't deserve this."

Espey was frustrated it took hours for a statewide Amber Alert to be issued. The mother was found around 3:30 p.m. local time and the Amber Alert didn't appear until nine hours later.

"We had a live baby and I thought that should qualify as an Amber Alert," he said.

"The information I was getting was that we didn't have enough information such as hair colour, eye colour, skin complexion, size and weight."

Stinnett, married for little more than a year and expecting her first child, worked at an engine factory in nearby Maryville. Her husband was at work at the time she was killed, authorities said.

Several pregnant women have been killed in recent years by attackers who then removed their fetuses, in some cases to pass the children off as their own.

In the most recent case, a 21-year-old woman was shot dead in Oklahoma in December 2003, allegedly by another woman who pretended the six-month-old fetus was her child. The fetus died and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.