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Friend of slain pregnant woman, Bobbie Jo Stinnett, hopes for closure amid uncertain execution

Bobbie Jo Stinnett
Posted at 6:09 PM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-12 19:11:23-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One of Bobbie Jo Stinnett's friends isn't interested in anything her convicted killer, Lisa Montgomery, has to say.

On Tuesday, as the U.S. Supreme Court weighed multiple stay-of-execution orders from lower courts, Stinnett's friend said that she hoped family and other friends would find peace and closure with Montgomery's execution.

Stinnett was eight months pregnant when Montgomery strangled her death and cut her unborn baby from her womb in 2004. Stinnett's friends and family still miss her every day.

"Bobbie Jo was one of the sweetest people you'd ever meet," Stinnett's high school friend, Jena Baumli, said. "I guess that saying, 'bad things always happen to good people,' that was one of these cases."

Montgomery, 52, whose execution was delayed in December when her attorneys contracted COVID-19, was scheduled to be put to death Tuesday before a federal judge granted her attorneys' request to halt the execution and perform a competency evaluation. The Supreme Court denied that request Tuesday afternoon.

But Montgomery's lawyers and court-watchers said two more stay-of-execution orders remained in place, one in the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit and another in the U.S. Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit, which has a location in St. Louis.

The Supreme Court was expected to rule on those later Tuesday night, and it's unclear when a mental competency hearing would take place if ordered by the courts.

Montgomery, who is the only female on federal death row, remains behind bars at the federal complex prison in Terra Haute, Indiana.

"I think she's very competent and I would like her to get the needle," Baumli said.

Stinnett was only 23 years old and eight months pregnant when a then-36-year-old Montgomery murdered her in 2004.

Montgomery lied to Stinnett, who was a dog breeder, in an online chat, meeting her under the guise of buying one of Stinnett's puppies.

Montgomery drove from Melvern, Kansas, which is located about 80 miles southwest of Kansas City, to Stinnett's home in Skidmore, Missouri, which is nearly 100 miles north of the KC area.

Montgomery strangled Stinnett and cut the baby from her stomach. She was arrested the next day, after trying to pass the baby off as hers.

The baby girl, Victoria Jo, survived and is now a teenager living with her dad. Friends said Victoria Jo reminds them of her mother.

"It hurts my heart," Baumli said. "Lisa took a lot of our dreams away from us. Bobbie Jo and our kids playing together or going to school together or doing the same things we did when we were kids was all taken from us."

Baumli said the murder rocked the small, tight-knit community in Skidmore and Stinnett's death still hangs over the town today.

Montgomery's attorneys have argued she is mentally ill, so executing her would be a cruel and unusual punishment. They claim she endured years of mental, sexual and physical abuse that brought on a dissociative psychosis.

One of Montgomery's attorneys, Sandra Babcock, told 41 Action News that her mental state has deteriorated and "she has completely lost touch with reality."

"The issue in this case has never been about whether she is legally guilty; she is," Babcock said. "The question is whether she deserves to die for her crime and that question is a much more complex one that revolves around her moral culpability as opposed to her legal culpability. Is this the kind of person that is so sadistic, so irredeemable, that she deserves to be eliminated from the human race?"

For at least one of Stinnett's friends, that question isn't hard to answer having lived through years of heartbreak and loss.

"I'm hoping for closure, peace," Baumli said. "And then from here on out, block anything that has Lisa Montgomery's name on it, because I think I've seen her name enough in one lifetime."

Babcock and the rest of Montgomery's team of attorneys hope for clemency from President Trump, who restarted federal executions after a 17-year hiatus in July. There have been 10 federal executions in the last seven months.

The federal government hasn't executed a woman since 1953, when Bonnie Brown Heady died in the gas chamber for her role in the kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old boy in Kansas City, Missouri.