MARYVILLE, Mo. – Hundreds of mourners gathered Tuesday in this small northwestern Missouri farming community for the funeral of a young pregnant woman who was strangled and whose baby girl was cut from her womb.
The crowd filled the flower-filled Price Funeral Home and overflowed into the entrance for the service for Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23. Cars lined the streets on a bitter cold day.
“I’ve known her since she was a baby,” said family friend Carl Montgomery. “She grew up into a beautiful swan.”
Stinnett’s mother found her eight-months-pregnant daughter in a pool of blood in her small home Thursday, the baby she was carrying missing. Lisa M. Montgomery, 36, of Melvern, Kan. – a woman Stinnett knew from breeding and dog shows, and no relation to the family friend – has been charged with kidnapping resulting in death.
Family and friends said Montgomery, arrested Friday, tried to pass off Stinnett’s baby as her own. The child, who has been named Victoria Jo Stinnett, spent the weekend in a Topeka, Kan., hospital before going home Monday afternoon with her father, Zeb Stinnett, and another relative.
The Rev. Harold Hamon, who married the Stinnetts in spring 2003 at the Skidmore Christian Church, spoke at the funeral; burial followed at a cemetery in Skidmore.
Many mourners were unable to get into the service. Others, some crying and exchanging hugs, took turns letting each other get closer to the sanctuary. One tearful mourner carried a dozen pink roses, but became so distraught she had to be taken outside.
Afterward, pallbearers waited outside as the gold coffin was placed into a hearse.
In the evening, members of the community gathered for a reception with Stinnett’s family. Bill Dragoo recalled the shy, young mother-to-be and her husband.
“The community is 100 percent behind them,” said Dragoo, 52, who helped construct Stinnett’s dog kennel.
The FBI would not comment on whether Stinnett and Montgomery had met before Thursday. But a Nebraska dog trainer said the two women had chatted on the Internet — and attended the same dog shows.
The two were even photographed together at a dog show in Abilene, Kan., in April, said Nancy Strudl, of Omaha, Neb.
Strudl recalled Stinnett was shy but “a sweetheart after you got to know her.” She said Stinnett knew so much about the genetics of the rat terrier breed that she gave advice to others. She also said Stinnett “stood up” for Lisa Montgomery, whom Strudl accused of misrepresenting the pedigree of dogs she sold.
“She said, ‘Maybe it was just a misunderstanding,’ ” Strudl said. “She was so trusting and she convinced them to give (Montgomery) another chance.”
Other breeders were skeptical when Lisa Montgomery said she was pregnant — she “never gained an ounce,” Strudl said.
“She told us all she was pregnant with twins, and about a month and a half ago her messages were ‘I lost one of the twins. It’s so terrible, but they saved one twin,’ ” Strudl said. “We didn’t believe she was pregnant. I don’t know how she fooled her family and community.”
On Monday, Montgomery’s husband said he believed the baby his wife presented to him was theirs. “I had no idea,” Kevin Montgomery said when asked about his wife’s alleged actions. He has not been charged and prosecutors have not said if they suspect he knew anything.