MELVERN, Kan. – The woman accused of slaying an eight-months-pregnant mom-to-be and stealing her fetus showed the baby off around town just hours before cops caught up to her, residents said Saturday.
Authorities charged Lisa M. Montgomery (search) with kidnapping resulting in murder, and she is expected to appear in court Monday. The baby girl was in good condition after being returned to her father.
Click here to read the charges against Montgomery.
Montgomery, 36, and her husband brought the infant to a restaurant, said Kathy Sage, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe. The couple showed the baby to several customers, who were surprised to hear the infant was only a day old, Sage said.
Sage knew an Amber Alert (search) had been sent out for a missing Missouri baby but did not realize the Montgomerys' infant was connected until hearing from a reporter on Friday.
"You read about this stuff," Sage said. "It blows you away when it's here. This stuff is supposed to be in New York City or Los Angeles."
While the couple had their breakfast, another patron showed the baby off around the cafe. After eating, the Montgomerys took the girl to visit their pastor.
"It was a beautiful baby," Mike Wheatley said. "Absolutely beautiful."
But Wheatley and his wife noticed that the baby, whom the couple called Abigail, did not look like a newborn — her head was not misshapen from passing through the birth canal, a common result of childbirth that soon goes away. The only marks she had were a small scratch on her head and a slight bruise on her hand, according to the Wheatleys.
The pastor had not seen the couple since October, and members of the congregation were under the impression her due date was around Dec. 12.
Shortly after showing the baby to town residents, Montgomery was arrested in the death of Bobbie Jo Stinnett (search), who was found Thursday in a pool of blood inside her small white home in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore.
Investigators searched Stinnett's computer and found the victim had been communicating through an Internet message board with someone claiming to be a Darlene Fischer who lived north of Fairfax, Mo.
Authorities, helped by a North Carolina dog breeder who was familiar with the message board, determined the communication from Fischer actually came from Montgomery's house.
Montgomery's husband, Kevin, has not been charged in the case.
Jeff Lanza, an FBI spokesman in Kansas City, Mo., declined to discuss motives and said the investigation is ongoing.
He would say only that Montgomery was being held in Kansas and is expected to make her first appearance in federal court Monday, though authorities do not know whether it will be in Missouri or Kansas.
The baby girl, named Victoria Jo, was in good condition Saturday in an intensive care unit. Hospital officials said she was responding normally for a baby taken from the womb one month premature.
"She's doing well," said Carol Wheeler, a spokeswoman for Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center.
Several family members, including her father, had been reunited with her at the hospital late Friday. Zeb Stinnett, the father, issued a brief statement through the hospital calling the child "a miracle."
"I want to thank family, friends, Amber Alert and law enforcement officials for their support during this time," he said.
U.S. Attorney Todd Graves said Montgomery contacted Stinnett through an online message board after seeing a Web site about rat terriers that Stinnett bred and raised. Stinnett appeared in a picture on the site in which she was clearly pregnant.
Montgomery has two high school-age children, but Graves said she had been pregnant with another child that was never born. It was unclear when she lost the baby or under what circumstances, but the complaint said she deceived her husband about giving birth.
Nodaway County Sheriff Ben Espey said Saturday that Montgomery had told people she was pregnant with twins, though investigators were still trying to determine if that was true.
"She told people she was pregnant and had a miscarriage and lost one of the twins," Espey said. "We're thinking she never was pregnant."
According to court documents, Montgomery traveled to Topeka on Thursday to go shopping. She called her husband from there, saying she had gone into labor and given birth.
Kevin Montgomery and the couple's two children met Lisa and the newborn in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant in Topeka and drove home, according to an affidavit.
The arrest stunned many townspeople who apparently had believed for months that Lisa Montgomery was pregnant.
How "could you not know that your wife's not pregnant?" said Gary Deskins, owner of a convenience store in Malvern, a community of about 420 residents about 30 miles south of Topeka. "There's something missing."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.