MISSION, Kan. – Becky Harper sobbed as she spoke to a Missouri dispatcher after stumbling across her expectant daughter in a pool of blood, her womb slashed open and the child she had been carrying missing.
“It’s like she exploded or something,” Harper told the dispatcher on Dec. 16, 2004, during the desperate yet futile attempt to get help for her daughter, Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who had been eight months pregnant.
Lisa Montgomery, who strangled Stinnett with a rope before performing a crude cesarean and fleeing with the baby, awaits execution Tuesday, just eight days before the presidential inauguration of death penalty opponent Joe Biden. If the lethal injection is carried out as scheduled at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, Montgomery would be the first woman executed by the federal government in more than 67 years.
Montgomery drove about 170 miles (273.59 kilometers) from her Melvern, Kansas, farmhouse to the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore under the guise of adopting a rat terrier puppy from Stinnett, a 23-year-old dog breeder.
She was arrested the next day after showing off the premature infant, Victoria Jo, as her own. She is now 16 years old and hasn't spoken publicly about about the tragedy.
“As we walked across the threshold our Amber Alert was scrolling across the TV at that very moment," recalled Randy Strong, who was part of the northwest Missouri major case squad at the time.
He looked to his right and saw Montgomery holding the newborn and was awash in relief when she handed her over to law enforcement. The preceding hours had been a blur in which he photographed Stinnett’s body and spent a sleepless night looking for clues — unsure of whether the baby was dead or alive and no idea what she looked like.
But then tips began arriving about Montgomery, who had a history of faking pregnancies and suddenly had a baby. Strong, now the sheriff of Nodaway County, where the killing happened, hopped in an unmarked car with another officer. He learned while en route that the email address firstname.lastname@example.org that was used to set up the deadly meeting with Stinnett had been sent from a dial-up connection at Montgomery’s home.