HARD NEWS SERIES 2: Baby found alive

Woman charged with death, kidnapping

Forum Managing Editor
Published December 18, 2004

Twenty-three hours after a pregnant Skidmore woman was murdered, the baby girl that was believed to have been cut from her womb was recovered from a home in Kansas.
The baby was reportedly in good condition Friday, and her alleged abductor was arrested. DNA test results on the baby had not yet been received Friday night, but investigators indicated they were sure the baby recovered was the one they were seeking.
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Lisa M. Montgomery, 36, of Melvern, Kan., was arrested and charged with felony kidnapping resulting in a death for murdering Bobbie Jo Stinnett and stealing the eight-month-old fetus from her womb. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole. The death penalty is also an option, according to U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, although he could not say whether he would seek the death penalty.
“The first 48 hours is very crucial in an Amber Alert,” Nodaway County Sheriff Ben Espey said Friday. “This case went 23 hours before we located this little girl.
“We’re going to cancel the Amber Alert. We’re that confident that we have the little girl who was taken from Skidmore.”
The baby girl is being united with her father, Zeb Stinnett, at a Kansas Hospital. As of Friday, law enforcement did not know whether the baby had been given a name.
“This is a great day for law enforcement and for Northwest Missouri,” said Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Sheldon Lynn.
Federal Bureau of Investigations agents apprehended Montgomery and her husband, Kevin, at their home in Melvern on Friday. Lisa Montgomery was later arrested. No other persons have been charged as of yesterday, but “The investigation is ongoing,” Graves said.
According to investigators’ statements and an affidavit released last night, Montgomery, a friend of Stinnett, allegedly went to Stinnett’s home Thursday afternoon, strangled her, and cut the baby out of her. Montgomery took the baby back to Melvern and told her husband, who thought she was pregnant, that she delivered the child in an emergency delivery at a fast-food restaurant. She was apprehended the next day after law enforcement received a tip from Diane Siktar, a North Carolina woman who may have received an emailed picture of what Montgomery claimed was her new baby. Graves also said investigators simultaneously matched information found in Stinnett’s computer to Montgomery.
“Two leads crossing makes that the best lead you’ve got,” Graves said.
Montgomery was still in custody in Melvern late Friday, Graves said. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will likely be handling the prosecution of the case, but Graves said Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney David Baird would also likely be involved.
Graves said the felony charge of kidnapping resulting in a death carries as much weight as a murder charge.
During the last of several press conferences held Friday, Graves told reporters he was more than satisfied with the end result of the case.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “This kind of investigation, where someone is taken from a home with very little information up front… the fact that they got this completed in 24 hours is astounding.”
He said the Nodaway County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI, the Highway Patrol, and other law enforcement agencies were essential in apprehending the suspect and bringing the baby back alive.
The use of the Amber Alert System was also an issue in this case. Espey at first had difficulty submitting the situation as a true Amber Alert since they did not have a description of the missing girl. Eventually, with the help of U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, Todd Graves’ brother, an Amber Alert was issued. Espey said the alert was essential in finding the child.
Despite the trouble he had filing one, Espey was still grateful for the Amber Alert system’s effectiveness.
“When the Amber Alert (system) came out, that’s the greatest thing that ever happened to law enforcement and our children,” Espey said.
“Because of the fact that this was a fetus, it didn’t meet the criteria initially,” Lyon said. “Because of this case, there’s going to have to be a little adjustment made.”