A woman accused of killing an expectant mother and cutting the baby from her womb has given different accounts of the crime, but an expert witness testified Wednesday that’s not unusual for someone who is delusional.
Dr. Vilayanur Ramachandran said that “fluctuating” beliefs are consistent with mental illnesses that he believes Lisa Montgomery was suffering when she allegedly killed 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett and cut the baby from her womb.
Stinnett was killed on Dec. 16, 2004, at her home in Skidmore. Montgomery was arrested the next day at her Melvern, Kan., home after showing off the baby around town.
Montgomery, 39, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping resulting in death, and her attorneys are pursuing an insanity defense.
The defense contends Montgomery suffered from several mental illnesses, including a condition that caused her to believe she was pregnant.
Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty if Montgomery is convicted.
Ramachandran, a neurologist and director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, testified Tuesday that Montgomery suffered from pseudocyesis, which causes a woman to exhibit some of the outward signs of pregnancy.
When the pregnancy belief is threatened, people suffering from such delusions may go into a dissociative state to protect the delusion, Ramachandran testified.
One such threat occurred when Montgomery’s ex-husband, Carl Boman, told her he suspected she was faking a pregnancy and planned to use it against her in a custody fight, Ramachandran said. Montgomery has four children.
Witness: Suspect in dissociative state
Ramachandran testified Tuesday he believed the defendant was in a dissociative state — similar to sleepwalking — at the time of the killing.
Montgomery told Ramachandran that she went to Stinnett’s house because both raised rat terriers and Montgomery wanted to breed one of her dogs with one of Stinnett’s dogs.
She told him she couldn’t remember the exact sequence of events. But she recalled trying to rouse Stinnett and cutting the baby’s umbilical cord with a knife that was at the house.
Dr. Linda McCandless, a psychiatrist who has been treating Montgomery since she was arrested in December 2004, testified Tuesday that Montgomery believed she was pregnant starting in April 2004 and had gained 25 pounds, experienced morning sickness and that her menstrual period had stopped.
If Montgomery is found not guilty by reason of insanity, she would undergo a mental evaluation and a judge would decide if she will be released or committed to a mental institution.