US

Female death row inmate who killed pregnant woman and stole baby fights to block execution transfer

Lisa Montgomery, 52, is currently scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on January 12. She is set to become the first woman to be executed in the US since Bonnie Heady in 1953

A death row inmate who would be the first woman to be executed by the federal government since 1953 is asking to be put to death where she is currently housed, rather than at an all-male prison in Indiana

Lisa Montgomery, 52, is currently scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on January 12 at the all-male federal prison FCC Terre Haute, the only federal facility that currently conducts executions.

Montgomery is currently being housed at the all-female Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth.

She was sentenced to death for the depraved 2004 murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett in Missouri, after she strangled the 23-year-old and cut her baby out of her womb with a carving knife, before running off with the premature child. 

The baby, Victoria Jo Stinnett, survived the attack and is now 16 years old.  

Montgomery’s execution had originally been slated for December 8, but was pushed back after her lawyers asked for a delay because they caught coronavirus while working her case.

While legal experts, social workers, justice groups and others urging President Trump to call off the execution, Montgomery is appealing to remain in Fort Worth for the time being.

The murderer’s attorneys sued Attorney General William Barr and several federal prison officials in Washington DC last month, seeking an injunction to stop Montgomery’s transfer to Terre Haute on grounds the move would cause ‘immediate and serious harm.’

‘Transfer to an all-male prison will inflict further gratuitous suffering on Mrs. Montgomery and will likely trigger a catastrophic psychiatric breakdown,’ the lawsuit reads.

Montgomery was sentenced to death for the depraved 2004 murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett (above) in Missouri, after she strangled the 23-year-old and cut her baby out of her womb with a carving knife, before running off with the premature child

Montgomery was sentenced to death for the depraved 2004 murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett (above) in Missouri, after she strangled the 23-year-old and cut her baby out of her womb with a carving knife, before running off with the premature child

Montgomery planned the brutal womb raid for months, and had lied to family members that she was full term

The baby, Victoria Jo Stinnett, survived the attack and is now 16 years old.

Montgomery (left) planned the brutal womb raid for months, and had lied to family members that she was full term.  Incredibly the baby, Victoria Jo Stinnett (right), survived the attack and is now 16 years old

Montgomery's execution is due to take place at the Terre Haute prison, in Indiana, on Jan. 12

Montgomery’s execution is due to take place at the Terre Haute prison, in Indiana, on Jan. 12

The last female federal execution: Bonnie Heady 

The last woman to be federally executed was Bonnie Heady in 1953 over the murder of a 6-year-old boy.

In 1953, couple Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady kidnapped six-year-old Bobby Greenlease from a Kansas City school. 

Heady had gone to the school, persuaded them she was Bobby’s aunt and took the child. 

Hall and Heady took the child across state line to Johnson County, Kansas where Hall shot him dead.  

The killer couple sent Bobby’s dad a ransom message demanding $600,000. 

The desperate father paid the sum and the couple fled. It was the largest ransom paid up to that point in US history. 

When the couple were tracked down they were sentenced to death.  

They died together in the Missouri gas chamber in December 1953.

Bonnie Heady

Bonnie Heady

Montgomery’s attorneys emphasised that Federal Medical Center-Carswell has an adjacent satellite camp for women with special health needs, and is the only medical facility for women in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The Terre Haute prison, however, has never housed women and is predominantly staffed by men, the lawsuit says.

Montgomery’s Washington D.C. attorney Robin Nunn wrote in an updated filing that Montgomery has suffered repeated sexual and physical abuse and neglect since childhood. 

The 52-year-old was reportedly raised in an abusive home where she was allegedly raped by her stepfather for a number of years, was sex trafficked, beaten and urinated on by those who assaulted her. 

When her mother uncovered the abuse at 14, she reportedly responded by threatening Montgomery with a gun. She later married at 18 to escape her home life but both her first and second marriages resulted in further abuse. 

Because of her apparent trauma stemming from the sexual abuse, Montgomery reportedly becomes distressed and terrified when the the presence of men, particularly those who are strangers, the suit states.

Montgomery has also attempted suicide several times between 2010 and 2012 and has been placed on suicide watch in Fort Worth, according to the suit.

Transferring her to an all-male prison for her scheduled execution without considering her gender or disabilities violates federal law, Nunn wrote. 

Compounding her case, Nunn stated that Montgomery has congenital brain damage and multiple traumatic brain injuries that have resulted in ‘significant psychiatric disabilities.’

‘A neurologist compared her brain to a city that has been bombed in multiple areas, resulting in impaired functioning across the entire city,’ the lawsuit reads, as reported by Dallas News. 

Federal regulations don’t specify where federal executions must be carried out, so the decision is made by the Bureau of Prisons director, according to the suit. 

Montgomery (pictured) was sentenced to death for the depraved Missouri murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett. Her federal execution will mark the eighth this year

Montgomery (pictured) was sentenced to death for the depraved Missouri murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett. Her federal execution will mark the eighth this year

Montgomery is currently housed at the Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth

Montgomery is currently housed at the Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth

Nunn further argues that staff at Terre Haute lack the training needed to cater to the needs of female inmates.

As a result, the attorney argues Montgomery will be subjected to more trauma as well as ‘dissociation, psychosis and further pain and humiliation.’

‘The Defendants know that transferring a woman who is mentally ill — because of years of abuse at the hands of men — to an all-male maximum security prison, where she will be surrounded male prisoners and constantly surveilled by male guards without the required training or experience with respect to female prisoners, will have a foreseeable and catastrophic impact on Mrs. Montgomery,’ Nunn wrote.

In response, however, the government said that Montgomery’s concerns about her transfer are speculative and unfounded.

Johnny Walker and Alan Simpson, attorneys for the government, said Montgomery will only be moved to Terre Haute one or two days before the execution and will be housed alone in a separate building where executions are performed.

They argued that Montgomery is ‘not entitled to micromanage the conditions of her confinement for her own comfort and convenience.’ 

Further, the attorneys said the Bureau of Prison’s transport team would include men and women, as well as a female psychologist and a female nurse.

‘Even accepting Montgomery’s contention that a brief transfer to an all-male institution poses a risk of psychological harm, it does not shock the conscience to transfer a death-row inmate to FCC Terre Haute — the only federal prison facility that conducts executions,’ Walker and Simpson wrote.

‘On the other side of the ledger, 13 years after her conviction, the public interest in allowing Montgomery’s execution to proceed is overwhelming,’ they continued.

‘Montgomery perpetrated an astonishingly brutal crime for which the jury determined that the death penalty was warranted.’

Montgomery was found guilty of federal kidnapping resulting in death and sentenced to death in 2007 for the slaying of mother-to-be Stinnett

Montgomery was found guilty of federal kidnapping resulting in death and sentenced to death in 2007 for the slaying of mother-to-be Stinnett

Bobbie Jo and Zeb Stinnett before her brutal murder in 2004

Bobbie Jo and Zeb Stinnett before her brutal murder in 2004 

Montgomery was found guilty of federal kidnapping resulting in death and sentenced to death in 2007 for the slaying of mother-to-be Stinnett. 

Planning the heinous crime for months, she met her victim online under the pretence that she was interested in buying a puppy from her.

Montgomery posed as ‘Darlene Fischer’ and started chatting with Stinnett in the chatroom called ‘Ratter Chatter.’

She told her victim she was pregnant and the two women chatted in the room and over email about their pregnancies.

Stinnett was eight months’ pregnant while Montgomery was faking her pregnancy, telling her victim as well as her family and friends that she was full term.

On December 16, 2004, the two women arranged to meet at Stinnett’s home over the purchase of the puppy, a rat terrier.

Once inside, Montgomery strangled Stinnett with a neon pink rope until she lost consciousness. 

When Montgomery sliced her stomach open with a knife, Stinnett regained consciousness and a struggled ensued. 

Montgomery then strangled the pregnant woman again, killing her.     

She then cut the baby girl from her victim’s womb and made off with the premature child, attempting to pass off the girl as her own.

On December 16, 2004, the two women arranged to meet at Stinnett's home over the purchase of the puppy, a rat terrier

On December 16, 2004, the two women arranged to meet at Stinnett’s home over the purchase of the puppy, a rat terrier

Stinnett’s mother discovered her daughter’s butchered body hours later.

Montgomery was arrested by police the following day at her farmhouse. The baby, who miraculously survived the ordeal, was returned to her father Zeb Stinnett. 

In 2007, a US District Court for the Western District of Missouri sentenced Montgomery to death for the crimes.

During her trial, Montgomery’s defense argued the Kansas woman suffered from a delusional belief that she was pregnant, and said she may have been unable to differentiate between right and wrong when she killed Stinnett.

The defense team portrayed her as a victim of severe mental illness whose delusion of being pregnant was being threatened, causing her to enter a dreamlike state when the killing took place.

They also argued that she had post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by mental, physical and sexual abuse in her childhood.

But prosecutors said Montgomery carefully planned the fatal meeting at Stinnett’s home in Skidmore, Missouri, pretending she wanted to purchase a rat terrier puppy.

They said Montgomery tried to pass off Stinnett’s baby as her own, telling her husband she had gone into labor while on a shopping trip and having him pick her up near a Topeka health centre where she said she gave birth.

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.

Her husband, Carl Boman, had become suspicious of her latest pregnancy claim and threatened to 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.

Montgomery’s mother and sister also had been telling Montgomery’s husband and his parents that it was impossible for her to carry a child.

A group shot from the dog show in Abilene, Kansas. Lisa Montgomery (second from left), Bobbi Jo (second from right) and Zeb Stinnett (far right) pose with their dogs

A group shot from the dog show in Abilene, Kansas. Lisa Montgomery (second from left), Bobbi Jo (second from right) and Zeb Stinnett (far right) pose with their dogs

The baby, who miraculously survived the ordeal, was returned to her father Zeb

The baby, who miraculously survived the ordeal, was returned to her father Zeb

Montgomery is set to become the first woman to be executed by the US government since Bonnie Heady, who was put to death in a gas chamber in Missouri in 1953. 

She was involved in the kidnapping and subsequent murder of 6-year-old Bobby Greenlease in October 1953. The boy ended up being buried in Heady’s back yard. 

As Donald Trump prepares to leave the White House, his administration has been increasing the pace of federal executions. 

Within the next month, five have been scheduled by the government leading up to the January 20 inauguration of Joe Biden. 

The delay in Montgomery’s initial execution date may give her attorneys time to prepare a clemency application. 

The Trump administration ended an informal 17-year-hiatus in federal executions in July, after announcing last year that the Bureau of Prisons was switching to a new single-drug protocol for lethal injections, from a three-drug combination it last used in 2003.

The new protocol revived long-running legal challenges to lethal injections. In August, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled the Justice Department was violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in not seeking a doctor’s prescription to administer the highly regulated barbiturate.

But an appeals court held the violation did not in itself amount to ‘irreparable harm’ and allowed federal executions to proceed.


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