Murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett
Bobbie Jo Stinnett (December 4, 1981 – December 16, 2004) was a 23-year-old American pregnant woman found brutally slain in her home in Skidmore, Missouri. The accused, Lisa M. Montgomery, then 36, was convicted of strangling Stinnett from behind and then cutting the woman's unborn child, eight months into gestation, from her womb. The child was later safely recovered by authorities.
Bobbie Jo Stinnett was eight months pregnant with her first child. She and her husband ran a dog-breeding business from their residence. Montgomery met Stinnett online in a rat terrier chatroom called "Ratter Chatter."
It is known that Stinnett was expecting the arrival in Skidmore, Missouri of prospective buyers for a terrier at about the time of her murder. Montgomery told Stinnett that she, too, was pregnant, leading to the two women chatting online and exchanging e-mails about their pregnancies.:155 Additionally, there was no sign of forced entry. Authorities now believe that Montgomery, posing as customer "Darlene Fischer," arranged to visit Stinnett's house on that day. On December 16, 2004, Montgomery entered the house, strangled Stinnett, and cut the premature infant from her womb.
It was speculated that Montgomery's motivation stemmed from a miscarriage she may have suffered and subsequently concealed from her family. How or whether Montgomery had recently become pregnant is unclear. Montgomery's former husband has since told authorities that she underwent a tubal ligation in 1990, and that she had a history of falsely telling acquaintances that she was pregnant.
Stinnett was discovered by her mother, Becky Harper, in a pool of blood about an hour after the assault. Harper immediately called 9-1-1. Harper described the wounds inflicted upon her daughter as appearing as if her "stomach had exploded". Attempts by paramedics to revive Stinnett were unsuccessful, and she was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital in Maryville.
The next day, December 17, 2004, Montgomery was arrested at her farmhouse in Melvern, Kansas, where the newborn had been claimed as her own and was recovered. The day-old baby, later named Victoria Jo Stinnett, was returned to her father, Zeb Stinnett. The quick recovery and capture was attributed to, in part, the use of computer forensics, which tracked Montgomery and Stinnett's online communication with one another. Both bred rat terriers and may have attended dog shows together. The investigation was also aided by the issuance of an AMBER alert to enlist the public's help, DNA testing to confirm the infant's identity, and the enormous amount of media attention.
|Criminal charge||Kidnapping resulting in death|
Lisa Montgomery was born February 27, 1968, and resided in Melvern, Kansas, at the time of the murder. She was raised in a "chaotic" home where she was raped by her stepfather for many years. She sought escape mentally by drinking alcohol. When Montgomery was 14, her mother discovered the abuse, but reacted by threatening her daughter with a gun. She tried to escape this situation by marrying at the age of 18, but both this marriage and a second marriage resulted in further abuse.
Montgomery had four children until 1990, when she underwent a tubal ligation. Montgomery falsely claimed to be pregnant several times after the procedure, according to both her first and second spouses.
Trial and rulingEdit
Montgomery was charged with the federal offense of "kidnapping resulting in death," a crime established by the Federal Kidnapping Act of 1932, and described in Title 18 of the United States Code. If convicted, she faced a sentence of life imprisonment or the death penalty.
At a pre-trial hearing, a neuropsychologist testified that head injuries, which Montgomery had sustained some years before, could have damaged the part of the brain which controls aggression. During her trial in federal court, her defense attorneys, led by Frederick Duchardt, asserted that she had pseudocyesis, a mental condition that causes a woman to falsely believe she is pregnant and exhibit outward signs of pregnancy. According to The Guardian, Duchardt attempted to follow this line of defense only one week before the trial began, after being forced to abandon a contradictory argument that Stinnett was murdered by Montgomery's brother Tommy, who had an alibi. As a result, Montgomery's family refused to co-operate with Duchardt and describe her unfavorable background to the jury.
V. S. Ramachandran and MD William Logan gave expert testimony that Montgomery had pseudocyesis in addition to depression, borderline personality disorder, and PTSD. Ramachandran testified that Montgomery's stories about her actions fluctuated because her delusional state fluctuated, and that she was unable to appreciate the nature and quality of her acts. Both federal prosecutor Roseann Ketchmark and the opposing expert witness forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz disagreed strongly with the diagnosis of pseudocyesis.
On October 22, 2007, jurors found Montgomery guilty. On October 26, the jury recommended a death sentence. Judge Gary A. Fenner formally sentenced Montgomery to death. On April 4, 2008, a judge upheld the jury's recommendation for death.
However, Duchardt's aforementioned pseudocyesis defense, Montgomery's unfavorable background and separate diagnoses of mental illness were not fully revealed to the jury until after her conviction, by her appeals team. This led critics, including the Guardian journalist David Rose, to argue that Duchardt provided an incompetent legal defense for Montgomery. Judge Fenner required Duchardt to be cross-examined in November 2016. Duchardt rejected all criticism and defended his conduct.
On March 19, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Montgomery's certiorari petition. Montgomery, who is registered for the Federal Bureau of Prisons under number 11072-031, is currently incarcerated at Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, where she will remain indefinitely. She is currently the only woman with a federal death sentence incarcerated at that facility.
Experts who examined Montgomery post-conviction concluded that by the time of her crime she had long been living with psychosis, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Montgomery falsely claimed to be pregnant several times after the procedure, according to both her first and second spouses. She was often disassociated from reality and had permanent brain damage from numerous beatings at the hands of her parents.
The case was described in the books, Baby Be Mine, by author Diane Fanning and Murder in the Heartland by M. William Phelps. This case was featured on Deadly Women's episode "Fatal Obsession". This case was also featured in the 5th episode of documentary "No One Saw A Thing" that first aired on the Sundance Channel August 29,2019.
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The Internet chat room "Ratter Chatter," a haven for rat terrier lovers in cyberspace, was overwhelmed with responses from its users...
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The government's expert, Park Dietz, M.D., agreed that Montgomery suffered from depression, borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder but did not diagnose her as suffering from pseudocyesis.
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