Sunday, December 19, 2004 Posted: 12:38 AM EST (0538 GMT)
(CNN) -- The father of a baby girl cut from her mother's womb after the mother was slain called his daughter "a miracle" at their first meeting, according to a statement from a hospital in Kansas.
Days-old Victoria Jo Stinnett was in good condition in the neonatal intensive care unit of Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center in Topeka, Kansas, according to the statement issued Saturday.
"I want to thank family, friends, [the] Amber Alert and law enforcement officials for their support during this time," Zeb Stinnett said, according to the hospital news release.
Lisa Montgomery, 36, of Melvern, Kansas, was arrested Friday and charged with kidnapping resulting in death, Jeff Lanza, said spokesman for the FBI's Kansas City, Missouri, office.
Authorities said Montgomery, who had a miscarriage earlier this year, confessed to strangling Stinnett -- who was eight-months pregnant with the couple's first child -- and cutting the baby from her womb.
Hours before her arrest, Montgomery and her husband showed off a baby girl at a restaurant, Kathy Sage, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe, told The Associated Press.
If convicted, Montgomery could face a maximum of life in prison or the death penalty, and a maximum $250,000 fine.
Stinnett, 23, was found dead in a pool of blood in her home Thursday afternoon by her mother, who called 911 saying it looked "as though her daughter's stomach had exploded," the affidavit said. Crime scene investigators later determined Stinnett's womb had been cut laterally, the baby removed and the umbilical cord cut, the affidavit said.
Family members expressed shock about the crime.
"I just can't understand why anybody would do a trick like that," said Romaine Henry, a relative of Stinnett's. "I just don't know why."
People in the community said the events surrounding Stinnett's death seemed unreal.
"This stuff doesn't happen," an unidentified neighbor said. "These are the really bad TV shows that you don't watch."
An anonymous tip from a caller in North Carolina helped lead police to Montgomery, CNN affiliate KMBC in Kansas City, Missouri, reported Saturday. Clues found on Stinnett's computer also pointed authorities toward a suspect, the station said.
The FBI affidavit paints a picture of deceit and premeditation on the part of Montgomery. It alleges that the woman, using a fictitious name, contacted Stinnett on Wednesday through a chat room and asked to look at the dogs the pregnant woman raised and sold. The two agreed to meet Thursday at Stinnett's home, the affidavit said.
Montgomery's Internet computer name was "fisher for kids," authorities told KMBC.
On Thursday afternoon, a neighbor reported seeing a dirty, red or pink, two-door car parked outside the Stinnett home.
With a search under way on the ground after the killing, computer investigators traced the online messages to Montgomery's home, more than 130 miles away.
Authorities began surveillance of the home and saw Montgomery on Friday with a "newborn female infant," according to the affidavit. They also saw a vehicle matching the description of one seen outside Stinnett's house, the affidavit said.
It alleges the suspect's husband, Kevin, told authorities his wife called him shortly after he arrived home from work Thursday, around 5:15 p.m., saying she had gone shopping in Topeka, went into labor and had a baby.
The husband and the couple's two high-school age children drove to Topeka and met Montgomery in the parking lot of a Long John Silver's restaurant, according to the affidavit. He, his wife and the child drove home in his pickup, and the older child drove his wife's car, a red Toyota Corolla, the affidavit said.
Authorities said Montgomery told her husband the baby was born at a women's clinic in Topeka, but a check revealed that no children were born there Thursday.
Once in custody, the affidavit alleges, Montgomery "confessed to having strangled Stinnett and removing the fetus. Lisa Montgomery further admitted the baby she had was Stinnett's baby and that she had lied to her husband about giving birth to a child."
Sheriff Ben Espey of Nodaway County, Missouri, said Montgomery was six months pregnant when she miscarried earlier this year.
Of a possible motive in the case, Espey said, "I think she was probably going to take it because she had lost one through a miscarriage."
Authorities expressed relief that the child was recovered alive and attributed that success to the Amber Alert system.
"We may have not ever recovered this little baby if the Amber Alert system was not put into place," Espey said.
Messages posted on Stinnett's Web site expressed condolences and thanks.
"Thank God that the precious baby girl was found alive and well," one message said. "Bobbie will live on through her daughter."