Kansas Woman to Face Death Penalty in Grisly Killing of Pregnant Woman

Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute
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Lisa Montgomery, a Kansas woman facing the death penalty for the grisly killing of a pregnant woman and her baby, would be the first execution of a woman since 1953.

Lisa Montgomery, a Kansas woman facing the death penalty for the grisly killing of a pregnant woman and kidnapping her baby, is the only woman on the federal government's death row and would be the first woman to face federal execution since 1953, according to reports. Montgomery was convicted by a jury in federal court in 2008 for killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett, a woman eight months pregnant, cutting her child from her abdomen and then claiming the baby as her own, according to The New York Times and the Department of Justice.

After a two-decade moratorium on the federal death penalty, Attorney General William Barr last year announced executions of federal inmates sentenced to death would resume, the Times previously reported. Since resuming in July, Montgomery would become the ninth federal execution. 

In December 2004, Montgomery reached out online to Stinnett, who was 23 at the time, claiming she wanted to buy a puppy from a litter that she had advertised, according to court documents. Earlier that year, Montgomery, who was 36, had told friends and family that she was pregnant even though she had undergone a sterilization procedure years earlier. Her family accused her of "deceiving" them, to which Montgomery said she would "prove them wrong," the court documents said.

When Montgomery drove from her home in Kansas to Stinnett's home in northwestern Missouri, she attacked and strangled Stinnett to death and then cut out her baby girl from her abdomen and attempted to pass the child as her own, according to court documents. Montgomery later confessed and in October 2007, was found guilty of federal kidnapping resulting in death and was recommended the death sentence. The baby ended up in the care of her father but has since remained out of the public eye.

According to a testimony filed in 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Montgomery was sex-trafficked and gang-raped by adult men. Her lawyer, Kelley Henry, a capital defense lawyer, said that such traumas "exacerbated a genetic predisposition to mental illness inherited from both sides of her family." Montgomery's petition for a rehearing was rejected by the court.

Henry said in a statement to Inside Edition Digital that her client takes full responsibility for her crime “but her severe mental illness and the devastating impacts of her childhood trauma make executing her a profound injustice."

These traumas, Henry claims, are what lead Montgomery to commit her crimes.

“Few human beings have lived through the kind of torture and trauma that was inflicted on Lisa Montgomery by her mentally ill, alcoholic mother,” Henry wrote.

The last woman to face a federal death penalty was a woman named Bonnie Heady, who kidnapped and murdered a 6-year-old boy in Kansas City, the Times reported. She was killed in a gas chamber. She was the first woman to ever die in the Missouri gas chamber and the first woman to be executed for kidnapping, the Times reported that year.

Since 1632, there have been 575 documented executions of women out of more than 15,000 executions in the country, according to the Times who cited the Espy Files, a database of executions in the United States and earlier colonies.

Montgomery is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Dec. 8 of this year at a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.