Jurors deciding whether to recommend the death penalty for a woman convicted of killing an expectant mother and cutting the baby from her womb listened Wednesday to a 911 call in which the victim's mother described the gruesome crime scene.
"It's like she exploded or something," a sobbing Becky Harper told the dispatcher in the recording. "There's blood everywhere."
The federal jury convicted Lisa Montgomery on Monday of killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett on Dec. 16, 2004, in the pregnant woman's home in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore. The baby survived, and Montgomery was arrested the next day after showing the infant off as her own in her hometown of Melvern, Kan.
The penalty phase of the trial began Wednesday. Prosecutors say Montgomery, 39, deserves a death sentence for the kidnapping resulting in death conviction. Her attorneys argue that she should get life in prison without parole — the only other punishment the jury can choose — because physical and sexual abuse she suffered as a child left her mentally ill.
During opening statements for the penalty phase of the trial, one of her attorneys, Fred Duchardt, said the defense would call two mental health experts and two of Montgomery's daughters to testify.
"It's obvious that Lisa has mental illness," he said.
Widower recalls wife's pregnancy
On the stand Wednesday, Harper described her daughter, Bobbie Jo Stinnett, as intelligent and fun-loving.
"She never knew a stranger," Harper said.
Stinnett's husband, Zeb, said her death "devastated my life."
He described his wife preparing for the baby's birth. Prosecutors showed photos of the plastic tubs she had filled with baby clothes and blankets. Prosecutors also showed a photo of a baby monitor the couple used to listen to the baby's heartbeat.
"It was very exciting," Zeb Stinnett testified.
Prosecutors say Montgomery had a history of pretending to be pregnant to get attention and avoid work. Her ex-husband, Carl Boman, had told Montgomery he would use the fake pregnancy against her to obtain custody of two of the couple's four children. A custody hearing had been set for January 2005.
The defense said Montgomery suffered from pseudocyesis, a mental condition that causes a woman to falsely believe she is pregnant and exhibit outward signs of pregnancy. They said her delusion of being pregnant was being threatened, causing her to enter a dreamlike, dissociative state when the killing happened.