Killer who strangled pregnant victim to be first woman executed by US in 70 years

A woman who murdered a pregnant woman and cut the unborn baby out of her womb is set to be the first female federal prisoner to be executed in the US in 70 years.

Lisa Montgomery, who had faked being pregnant, is due to be put to death by lethal injection for killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in December 2004.

Mrs Stinnett was pregnant with her first child when Montgomery lured the victim to her home, where she strangled the mum-to-be with a rope and hacked the baby from her womb with a kitchen knife.

A doctor who testified at Montgomery’s trial said Mrs Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, was probably still alive when the killer started removing her baby, a girl named Victoria Jo who miraculously survived.

Montgomery, now 52, was arrested by police after she showed off the baby as her own in her home town of Melvern, Kansas.

Victoria Jo was rescued and returned to her father.

Montgomery had met dog breeders Mrs Stinnett and her husband at a dog show just months earlier, and used a fake online profile to set up a meeting at the victim’s home in Skidmore, Missouri.

In October 2007, it took just four hours of deliberations for jurors to find Montgomery guilty of kidnapping resulting in death, a federal crime.

The jury rejected her claims that she was delusional.

She was later sentenced to die and has been on death row ever since.

The US Justice Department announced that Montgomery only has seven weeks to live, if the execution goes ahead on December 8 as planned.

The lethal injection will take place at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Kelley Henry, her lawyer, said Montgomery is mentally ill and suffered childhood abuse, and therefore should not be executed.

Ms Henry said: “Lisa Montgomery has long accepted full responsibility for her crime, and she will never leave prison

“But her severe mental illness and the devastating impacts of her childhood trauma make executing her a profound injustice.”

It will be the first time a woman has been executed by the US government since Bonnie Heady was put to death in a gas chamber in Missouri in December 1953.

Heady, 41, was executed for the September 1953 abduction and murder of six-year-old Robert (Bobby) Cosgrove Greenlease Jnr, the son of a wealthy auto dealer.

She and accomplice Carl Hall were executed together.

The US Justice Department has also scheduled a December 10 execution for Brandon Bernard, who with accomplices murdered husband and wife Todd and Stacie Bagley, who were youth ministers, in Texas in June 1999.

The victims were abducted and shot while stuffed in the boot of a car, which was set on fire while Mrs Bagley was still alive.

The two executions will be the eighth and ninth the US government has carried out in 2020.

The Trump administration resumed federal executions in July 2019 after a 14-year hiatus.

It said the Bureau of Prisons had moved to a new single-drug protocol for lethal injections, replacing the three-drug cocktail it had used up until 2003.

But the new protocol has faced legal challenges.

In August, a federal judge ruled the US Justice Department was violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by not seeking a doctor’s prescription to administer the highly regulated barbiturate.

However, an appeals court later allowed federal executions to resume, saying the violation of the act did not in itself amount to “irreparable harm”.