KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Attorneys began selecting a jury Monday in the trial of a Kansas woman accused of killing a pregnant woman and cutting the baby from her womb.
Lisa Montgomery, 39, of Melvern, Kan., could face the death penalty if she is convicted of kidnapping resulting in death.
U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner on Monday told about 80 potential jurors they would be broken into smaller groups for questioning. Fenner also instructed the group not to discuss the case with the media.
Jury selection, which was closed to the public, was expected to take three days, with opening arguments starting Thursday. The trial could last up to a month.
Prosecutors allege Montgomery had been faking a pregnancy when she strangled Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, of Skidmore, Mo., in December 2004.
The baby, Victoria Jo Stinnett, who was a month away from her due date, survived a crude Cesarian delivery.
Montgomery, who appeared in court Monday and sat between two of her lawyers, pleaded not guilty to the charge in January 2005, and her lawyers have said they plan to use an insanity defense. They say Montgomery suffers from several conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and impulsivity and a mental condition that caused her to believe she was pregnant.
A massive search began when Stinnett's mother found her daughter lying in a pool of blood. Police tracked down Montgomery and the baby the next day through e-mails Montgomery had sent Stinnett about buying a dog.
Authorities said they also found a bloody rope used to strangle Stinnett and a knife used in removing the baby from her womb. The rope and knife are among more than 100 pieces of physical evidence prosecutors could present at Montgomery's trial. Prosecutors also have more than 100 possible witnesses.
Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said prosecutors would not discuss the case before the trial. Montgomery's attorney, David L. Owen Jr., did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Among the exhibits prosecutors might use are Montgomery's medical records from a 1990 tubal ligation. Relatives said she had repeatedly reported she was pregnant since undergoing the procedure after the birth of her fourth child.
When Montgomery announced in the summer of 2004 that she again was pregnant, her mother, Judy Shaughnessy, and sisters tried to convince people there was no way she could be carrying a child.