KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A woman whose attorneys had argued that she was suffering from delusions when she killed an expectant mother and cut the baby from her womb was found guilty Monday.
Jurors convicted Lisa Montgomery, 39, of kidnapping resulting in death in the Dec. 16, 2004, attack on 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore. Jurors deliberated for about four hours before rejecting Montgomery's insanity defense. Besides convicting her, the jury also could have acquitted her outright or found her not guilty by reason of insanity.
Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty. The penalty phase of the trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday and is expected to last two days.
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.
Montgomery's attorneys and a spokesman for Stinnett's family declined to comment outside the courthouse.
U.S. Attorney John F. Wood noted that Stinnett's baby is living with her family. He said he was impressed with the family's courage and prosecutors' work, but he declined to comment further.
"The only good thing that comes from this tragedy is that little Victoria is a healthy baby and is reunited with her family," Wood said.
Defense attorneys claimed Montgomery was suffering from pseudocyesis, which causes a woman to falsely believe she is pregnant and exhibit outward signs of pregnancy. They portrayed her as a victim of severe mental illness whose delusion of being pregnant was being threatened, causing her to enter a dreamlike, dissociative state when the murder took place.
They also argued that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by mental, physical and sexual abuse in her childhood.
However, during closing arguments, federal prosecutor Roseann Ketchmark called the pseudocyesis claim "voodoo science." She said Montgomery instead 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. A custody hearing had been set for January 2005.
"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 described Montgomery's actions as "strategic manipulation and deceit," saying she was cold and calculated and plotted the slaying and abduction.
"She knows she's not pregnant," the prosecutor said. "It's no delusion. It's deceit and manipulation."
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.
Prosecutors said Montgomery used a rope to choke Stinnett, but that Stinnett was conscious and trying to defend herself as a kitchen knife was used to crudely cut the baby from her womb.
The baby, who was a month shy of her due date, survived. 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.
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."