MARYVILLE, Mo. – Authorities Friday arrested a woman they allege came to the home of an eight-months-pregnant woman – purportedly to buy a dog – then strangled her and cut the baby from her womb. Authorities found the abducted infant in good health, ending a day of frantic searching.
According to a criminal complaint, Lisa M. Montgomery admitted she strangled Bobbie Jo Stinnett and took her baby. The complaint also said Montgomery lied to her husband about giving birth, although U.S. Attorney Todd Graves declined to give a motive for the crime.
Stinnett’s mother found the 23-year-old nearly dead Thursday in her home in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore. Paramedics tried to revive her, but she was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The baby was found Friday in an eastern Kansas home. A red Honda hatchback matching a description offered earlier by police was in the driveway.
Although DNA tests were pending to confirm the baby’s identity, authorities called off the Amber Alert issued for the infant.
“We’re confident we have the little girl that was taken from Skidmore,” Nodaway County Sheriff Ben Espey said during a news conference in Maryville. An FBI agent had said the father had already been reunited with the baby, but officials with the bureau and the Topeka, Kan., hospital where the baby was taken later said that was not the case.
Montgomery, 36, of Melvern, Kan., was charged with kidnapping resulting in death, Graves said. Montgomery, a mother of two, had been pregnant but lost the child, Graves said, though it was unclear when or under what circumstances.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Sheldon Lyon said earlier in the day that authorities were questioning a man and a woman who were in the place where the baby was found.
Graves said Montgomery contacted Stinnett through an online message board, and authorities zeroed in on her using computer forensics. Montgomery was seeking to buy a dog from Stinnett, who raised rat terriers, he said.
According to the criminal complaint, Montgomery’s husband, Kevin, told officers he received a call Thursday from his wife, who said she was in Topeka, Kan., about 40 miles from Melvern, and had gone into labor and given birth.
Kevin Montgomery and the couple’s two children met Lisa and the newborn at a parking lot in Topeka and drove home, according to the affidavit.
The victim’s mother, Becky Harper, said her daughter called her about an hour before she found her, authorities said. Stinnett apparently hung up when someone showed up for an appointment to look at her dogs.
“Oh, they’re here,” Stinnett told her mother, according to the affidavit. “I’ve got to go.”
Espey said he believes Stinnett was strangled and resisted the attack.
“The autopsy is going to show us there was some blond hair probably found in her hands,” the sheriff said.
A neighbor, Bill Dragoo, said Stinnett and her husband “didn’t bother anybody. It blows my mind that this happened. She was such a shy person. They didn’t deserve this.”
Espey was frustrated that it took hours for a statewide Amber Alert to be issued. The mother was found around 3:30 p.m., and the Amber Alert didn’t appear until nine hours later.
“We had a live baby, and I thought that should qualify as an Amber Alert,” he said. “The information I was getting was that we didn’t have enough information such as hair color, eye color, skin complexion, size and weight.”
Stinnett, married for little more than a year and expecting her first child, worked at an engine factory in nearby Maryville. Her husband was at work at the time she was killed, authorities said.