KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A woman whose attorneys had argued that she was suffering from delusions when she killed an expectant mother, cut the baby from her womb and took the infant home was convicted Monday.
Jurors convicted Lisa Montgomery, 39, of kidnapping resulting in death in the 2004 attack on 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore.
The jury deliberated for about four hours before rejecting Montgomery’s insanity defense. The jury could have acquitted her outright or found her not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors said they plan to seek the death penalty.
After the verdict was read, Montgomery dried her eyes and one of her attorneys patted her back to console her.
Stinnett’s husband, Zeb, and Montgomery’s husband, Kevin, showed no emotion.
Defense attorneys claimed Montgomery was suffering from pseudocyesis, which causes a woman to falsely believe she is pregnant and exhibit outward signs of pregnancy.
Defense argued she was abused as a child
They portrayed her as a victim of severe mental illness whose delusion of being pregnant was being threatened, causing her to enter a dreamlike state when the killing took place.
They also argued that she had post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by mental, physical and sexual abuse in her childhood.
But during closing arguments, federal prosecutor Roseann Ketchmark called the pseudocyesis claim “voodoo science.”
She said Montgomery was driven by fear because she believed her ex-husband, Carl Boman, would expose that she was lying about being pregnant and use it against her as he sought custody of two of the couple’s four children.
“It’s not pseudocyesis or post-traumatic stress disorder,” Ketchmark said. “And even if you wrap them up and put delusions around them, it’s not insanity.”
Ketchmark said Montgomery plotted the slaying and abduction and took pains to cover up that planning after she was caught.
“She knows she’s not pregnant,” the prosecutor said. “It’s no delusion. It’s deceit and manipulation.”
Falsely claimed multiple pregnancies
Montgomery had undergone a tubal ligation in 1990 after the birth of her fourth child. But soon after, she began falsely reporting a series of pregnancies. In 2004, she claimed to be due in mid-December.
Boman had become suspicious of her latest pregnancy claim and threatened to use it against her as he sought custody of two of the couple’s four children. A custody hearing had been set for January 2005.
Montgomery’s mother and sister also had been telling Montgomery’s husband and his parents that it was impossible for her to carry a child.
As Montgomery’s purported Dec. 13, 2004, due date approached, she began conducting searches on the Internet about Stinnett and researching different aspects of child birth. The defense portrayed those efforts as evidence that she believed she was pregnant. The prosecution called them proof of premeditation.
Prosecutors said Montgomery used a rope to choke Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant. But Stinnett was conscious and trying to defend herself as Montgomery used a kitchen knife to cut the baby girl from the womb, prosecutors said.
Montgomery was arrested the day after the killing after spending the morning showing off the infant as her own in her hometown of Melvern, Kan.
Montgomery’s attorneys and a spokesman for Stinnett’s family declined to comment. Stinnett’s baby is living with her family.
“The only good thing that comes from this tragedy is that little Victoria is a healthy baby and is reunited with her family,” U.S. Attorney John F. Wood said.
After initially denying the crime, Montgomery told investigators she had taken a knife, rope and umbilical cord clamp with her to Stinnett’s home. Montgomery said she had thought she was leaving the home when “something out of character” happened and “then this took place.”
Attorneys are to start arguing Wednesday whether Montgomery deserves the death penalty.
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