Jury recommends death

Defendant killed woman, cut unborn baby from her body and claimed it as her own

October 27, 2007|By McClatchy-Tribune

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Jurors unanimously agreed yesterday that Lisa Montgomery should be put to death for killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett and stealing her unborn daughter nearly three years ago.

Before the decision ending the four-week trial was announced yesterday afternoon, the federal judge ordered spectators to control their emotions or leave the Kansas City courtroom.

People obeyed him, but Montgomery began shaking after she heard the verdict.

Jurors, who deliberated about four hours over two days, declined to talk to reporters afterward.

Praising the efforts of law enforcement and prosecutors, Stinnett's family said in a statement that they wanted Montgomery to be executed.

"This case has finally come to a close, but we will never stop missing Bobbie Jo," said Stinnett's mother, Becky Harper. "She was a sweet and loving wife, daughter and sister, and would have been a wonderful mother."

U.S. Attorney John Wood said: "In the end, we're confident that justice has been served. I know nothing we can do can erase the pain the family is feeling. I only hope that they find some measure of justice in this outcome."

Fred Duchardt, one of Montgomery's attorneys, said he respected the jurors' decision and appreciated how difficult it was to make. But he also called Montgomery, "a lady who is really sick and was involved in something really terrible."

"It's an incredibly sad day," Duchardt said.

If jurors had not reached a unanimous decision for the death penalty, Montgomery would have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The court will schedule a formal sentencing hearing at a later date.

The jurors convicted Montgomery late Monday afternoon of kidnapping resulting in death. After taking a break Tuesday, they returned Wednesday to begin the penalty phase. They deliberated about an hour Thursday before breaking for the night and returning yesterday morning.

Montgomery tried to claim Stinnett's baby as her own after cutting the girl from her mother's womb in Skidmore, Mo., in December 2004 and taking the baby home to Melvern, Kan.

Her defense team unsuccessfully tried to convince the jury that she was insane at the time of the killing. They had argued that Montgomery suffered from pseudocyesis - the delusional belief that she was pregnant - as well as from post-traumatic stress disorder.

During penalty phase hearings, the defense continued to present testimony that Montgomery's mental health played a role in Stinnett's death.

Expert witnesses for the prosecution have concurred that Montgomery suffers from some mental disorders. But the prosecution maintained that Montgomery killed Stinnett and cut her baby from her womb because she was desperate to produce a baby to back up her false pregnancy claims to her friends and family.

Montgomery and Stinnett had met through their interests in breeding rat terriers.

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