KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Churchgoers in two communities stunned by the slaying of an expectant mother whose baby was cut from her womb grieved for the young woman Sunday and struggled to understand her grisly death.
The Rev. Harold Hamon said he was probably addressing Christmas cards when his neighbor, Bobbie Jo Stinnett (search), was strangled and the infant ripped from her womb.
A short time later, a member of his congregation called to say she had heard an ambulance and wondered if anyone near the church was hurt. Hamon said he looked out the window and saw police cars parked in front of Stinnett's house.
"It's almost unbelievable that right under your nose something terrible can be happening," said Hamon, who lives in the tiny town of Skidmore in northwestern Missouri.
Lisa Montgomery (search), 36, of nearby Melvern, Kan., is accused of killing Stinnett on Thursday, removing the baby from her womb and trying to pass it off as her own to family and friends. The baby, a girl named Victoria Jo (search), was later recovered unharmed.
"This was the last Sunday before Christmas," said the Rev. Mike Wheatly, pastor of First Church of God in Melvern. "We wanted it to be a worship time, not a time of grieving. I did the best I could to make it that way."
Wheatly said he wrote his sermon about the birth of Jesus before details about Stinnett's death surfaced, but it still had added relevance Sunday. It was titled, "A Baby Changed Everything."
"You could've put the situation of Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the same sermon because they are both special babies," he said.
Although Hamon did not discuss the death directly in his sermon Sunday, it was clearly on the minds of parishioners, he said.
A churchgoer who spoke at Bobbie Jo's wedding last year performed the communion meditation Sunday. The subject was forgiveness.
Hamon married Bobbie Jo and Zeb Stinnett in spring of 2003 at his Skidmore Christian Church. "She was all dressed in white and very beautiful," he said.
Stinnett, 23, grew up in Skidmore and worked at an engine factory. She was eight months pregnant with the couple's first child.
"They were kids in the neighborhood, nice young kids," Hamon said. "She's just a real nice girl, real pretty, quiet and reserved."
Stinnett's mother found her body in a pool of blood inside the couple's small white home on Thursday afternoon. Police recovered Stinnett's baby a day later after tracking down Montgomery through e-mails she had sent Stinnett about buying a dog.
Authorities said Montgomery confessed to strangling Stinnett, cutting out the fetus and taking the baby back to Kansas.
Montgomery, a mother of two, lied to family and friends about being pregnant with twins and suffering a miscarriage with one of the babies, investigators said. Detectives doubt whether she was pregnant at all.
She met her husband at a Topeka fast-food restaurant with Stinnett's baby, telling him she had gone into labor while shopping in the city, authorities said.
Montgomery's husband has not been charged.
Stinnett's baby was in good condition Sunday at a Topeka hospital. Services will be held for Stinnett on Tuesday.
Montgomery was being held Sunday at the Wyandotte County Detention Center in Kansas City, Kan. She is expected to appear in court on Monday, but authorities have not yet said whether she will be arraigned in Kansas or Missouri.