Five officers given honor for roles in finding baby cut from womb

Sunday, May 22, 2005

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Five Missouri men were collectively named National Officer of the Year for their roles in finding a baby who was cut from her mother's womb and capturing the woman accused of the gruesome act.

Nodaway County Sheriff Ben Espy, Cpl. Jeffery M. Owen and Sgt. David Merrill, both of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Maryville investigator Randy Strong and FBI agent Kurt Lipanovich were presented the award Friday in Washington by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in Washington, D.C.

On Dec. 16, the mother of 23-year-old Bobbi Jo Stinnett found her daughter dead in the younger woman's Skidmore home, with the baby she had been carrying removed from her body.

Officials traced e-mail messages between Stinnett and a woman who claimed to be a fellow dog breeder to Lisa Montgomery, 37, of Melvern, Kan. The baby was found Dec. 17 in Kansas with Montgomery. Montgomery faces a federal charge of kidnapping resulting in death.

The baby, named Victoria Jo, was returned to her father, Zeb Stinnett.

Strong, who at the time of the killing had a daughter who was expecting a baby, said the case had deeply affected everybody involved -- including investigators.

"I was up all night," he said. "It was just exhausting, but you couldn't sleep. This was one of those cases that grabs you, and you say, 'I've got to see this through to the end."'

The officers were honored as part of a ceremony marking National Missing Children's Day.

"I have to believe there is no more joyous feeling in the world than being reunited with a son or daughter who was missing," Gonzales said.

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