- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 2004

MELVERN, Kan. — A woman charged with killing an expectant mother and cutting the baby from her womb was showing the child off to people at a cafe and to her pastor hours before she was arrested, residents said yesterday.

Lisa M. Montgomery, 36, was charged Friday with kidnapping resulting in murder and was expected to appear in federal court tomorrow . The baby, whose mother had been eight months pregnant, was in good condition.

Hours before her arrest, Mrs. Montgomery and her husband showed off a newborn girl at a restaurant, said Kathy Sage, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe in Melvern, Kan.

While the Montgomerys ate breakfast, another customer showed the baby off around the cafe. After eating, they took the girl to visit their pastor.

“It was a beautiful baby,” Mike Wheatley said. “Absolutely beautiful.”

Mr. Wheatley and his wife commented that the baby, whom the couple called Abigail, did not look like a newborn because her head was not misshapen from passing through the birth canal. The only marks she had were a small scratch on her head and a slight bruise on her hand.

The pastor had not seen the couple since October, and everyone in the congregation expected Mrs. Montgomery to give birth around Dec. 12.

Mrs. Montgomery was arrested hours later in the death of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was found Thursday in a pool of blood inside her small white home in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore. Investigators said Mrs. Montgomery confessed to the crimes.

Her husband, Kevin, has not been charged in the case.

U.S. Attorney Todd Graves said Mrs. Montgomery contacted Mrs. Stinnett through an online message board after seeing a Web site about the rat terriers Mrs. Stinnett bred and raised. The site included a picture of Mrs. Stinnett, showing she was pregnant.

Jeff Lanza, an FBI spokesman in Kansas City, Mo., declined to discuss motives and said the investigation was ongoing.

He would say only that Mrs. Montgomery was being held in Kansas and was expected to make her first appearance in federal court tomorrow, though authorities did not know whether it would be in Missouri or Kansas.

The baby’s father and several other family members saw the infant, named Victoria Jo, for the first time Friday night at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center in Topeka.

The infant was in an intensive-care unit. Hospital officials said she was responding normally for a baby taken from the womb one month premature.

“She’s doing well,” hospital spokeswoman Carol Wheeler said.

The family was not speaking to reporters, but the baby’s father, Zeb Stinnett, issued a brief statement calling her “a miracle.”

“I want to thank family, friends, Amber Alert and law-enforcement officials for their support during this time,” he said.

Mrs. Montgomery is the mother of two high-school-age children. Nodaway County Sheriff Ben Espey said yesterday that Mrs. Montgomery had told people she was pregnant with twins, though investigators were still trying to determine if that was true.

“She told people she was pregnant and had a miscarriage and lost one of the twins,” Sheriff Espey said. “We’re thinking she never was pregnant.”

According to court documents, Mrs. Montgomery traveled to Topeka, about 30 miles north of Melvern, on Thursday to go shopping. She called her husband from there, saying she had gone into labor and given birth.

Mr. Montgomery and the couple’s two children met Mrs. Montgomery and the newborn in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant in Topeka and drove home, according to an affidavit.

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