Woman sentenced in death of mother-to-be

April 4, 2008 12:20:13 PM PDT
A woman was sentenced to death Friday for killing a Missouri mother-to-be and cutting the baby from her womb. Lisa Montgomery becomes the third woman on federal death row.

She was convicted in October of kidnapping resulting in death in the Dec. 16, 2004, killing of Bobbie Jo Stinnett. Montgomery was arrested at her farmhouse a day after showing off Stinnett's baby as her own.

"I hope that today's sentence will bring some measure of closure to the family of Bobbie Jo Stinnett," U.S. Attorney John Wood said in a statement. "Seeking the ultimate penalty is not something we take lightly, but this outcome serves the cause of justice and honors the memory of Bobbie Jo Stinnett."

Prosecutors presented evidence during the trial that Montgomery strangled Stinnett with a rope, then used a kitchen knife to cut her daughter from the womb. Stinnett was eight months pregnant at the time.

The jury rejected claims from Montgomery's attorney, Fred Duchardt, that she should be spared the death penalty because sexual abuse during her childhood led to mental illness. Duchardt plans to appeal.

"The thing that happened here is horrible and we can't say anything differently about that and wouldn't even try, but what we've tried to express to everybody who would listen is just the sweet person she is," Duchardt said.

Montgomery's husband, Kevin, and Stinnett's mother, Becky Harper, attended the hearing with other family members, but neither spoke with reporters after leaving the courtroom.

Montgomery declined U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner's offer to speak before her sentencing and sat quietly as the judge imposed the sentence.

Before sentencing, Duchardt asked Fenner to include information about Montgomery's abuse and medical treatment in documents sent to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Department of Justice spokesman Don Ledford said Montgomery will likely be sent to the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, a women's correctional facility that has medical services for inmates.

Duchardt said Montgomery takes medication that has "done wonders."

Montgomery is just the third woman to be sentenced to federal death row since 1972, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling led to an overhaul of death-penalty statues across the country. Since 1927, only two women have been executed under the federal system, both in 1953.

Ethel Rosenberg was the first, sent to the electric chair after her and husband Julius were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.

Bonnie Heady was sent to the gas chamber with her lover Carl Hall for the kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old boy in Kansas City.

Mary Surratt was hanged by the U.S. government in 1865 for her involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln.