Attorneys to use mental illness defense in Montgomery case

Monday, March 19, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas woman accused of killing an expectant mother and cutting a baby from her womb will use a mental illness defense in her capital murder trial, according to court documents.

Lisa Montgomery, 37, of Melvern, Kan., is accused of strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, of Skidmore, Mo., who was eight months pregnant when she was killed at her home Dec. 16, 2004. Montgomery then allegedly cut a baby girl from Stinnett's womb and told people the child was hers before she was arrested a day later in Melvern.

The child, Victoria Jo, survived and was returned to her father, Jeb Stinnett.

Montgomery's federal trial is scheduled to begin April 30 in Kansas City. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

In a court filing Feb. 28, one of Montgomery's attorneys, Frederick Duchardt, requested an extension to have a mental evaluation performed on Montgomery, whom he said intends to rely on a mental illness defense.

The extension was granted, but it's not expected to delay the trial.

Several motions and notices have been filed in the case since Jan. 1, but most of them were sealed.

Some of the motions that weren't sealed show that prosecutors have deposed more than 100 potential witnesses, a majority of whom are law enforcement or medical personnel.

The filings also detail more than 100 pieces of physical evidence prepared by the prosecution, including a bloody rope and umbilical cord found in Montgomery's car, hair found in Stinnett's hands and baby announcements recovered from Montgomery's home -- some of which are blank, and some with the name "Abigail Marie."

Residents in Melvern said Montgomery was calling the baby Abigail while showing her off around town.

Montgomery and Stinnett became acquainted through a group of rat terrier dog breeders. They met at least once, at a dog show in Abilene, Kan., several months before Stinnett's death.

Authorities said Montgomery, posing as a woman named Darlene Fischer, sought directions to Stinnett's home through the message board on the day before Stinnett's death. She allegedly said she wanted to buy one of Stinnett's dogs.

Acting on a tip, investigators traced that message back to Montgomery's computer in Kansas, which was a major clue leading to her arrest.

Information from: St. Joseph News-Press,

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