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First Execution of a US Woman in 67 Years Halted

Judge grants stay of execution for Lisa Montgomery
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 12, 2021 2:13 AM CST
Updated Jan 12, 2021 6:55 AM CST

(Newser) – A judge has granted a stay in what was slated to be the US government's first execution of a female inmate in nearly seven decades—a Kansas woman who killed an expectant mother in Missouri, cut the baby from her womb, and passed off the newborn as her own, the AP reports. Judge Patrick Hanlon granted the stay late Monday, citing the need to determine Lisa Montgomery’s mental competence, reported the Topeka Capital-Journal. Montgomery faced execution Tuesday at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, just eight days before President-elect Joe Biden, an opponent of the federal death penalty, takes office. Montgomery drove about 170 miles from her farmhouse in Melvern, Kansas, to the Missouri town of Skidmore under the guise of adopting a rat terrier puppy from Bobbie Jo Stinnett, a 23-year-old dog breeder. She strangled Stinnett with a rope before performing a crude Caesarean and fleeing with the baby.

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She was arrested the next day after showing off the premature infant, Victoria Jo, who is now 16 years old and hasn’t spoken publicly about the tragedy. Montgomery had a history of faking pregnancies, and prosecutors said her motive was that her ex-husband knew she had undergone a tubal ligation that made her sterile and planned to reveal she was lying about being pregnant in an effort to get custody of two of their four children. Needing a baby before a fast-approaching court date, Montgomery turned her focus on Stinnett, whom she had met at dog shows. Montgomery’s lawyers, though, have argued that sexual abuse during her childhood led to mental illness. Attorney Kelley Henry spoke in favor of Monday's decision, saying that “Mrs. Montgomery has brain damage and severe mental illness that was exacerbated by the lifetime of sexual torture she suffered at the hands of caretakers.”

(Read more Lisa Montgomery stories.)

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