Woman convicted of killing mother-to-be and cutting baby from her womb to be executed in US

18 October 2020, 07:33 | Updated: 18 October 2020, 11:28

The first woman to be executed by the US government in decades will be Lisa Montgomery, who strangled a pregnant woman, cut her open, and kidnapped her baby, the Justice Department has said.

Montgomery is scheduled to be killed by lethal injection on 8 December at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Sixteen women have been executed by state authorities since a landmark case in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre, but the federal government hasn't used capital punishment against a female since 1953, when Bonnie Heady was put in a gas chamber in Missouri.

Montgomery was convicted of killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the town of Skidmore, Missouri, in December 2004.

Montgomery travelled from Kansas home to Ms Stinnett's house saying she wanted to adopt a puppy, according to the Justice Department.

When she arrived, Montgomery throttled her victim, who was eight months pregnant at the time, but did not succeed in killing her, leaving her conscious enough to try to defend herself.

Montgomery then used a kitchen knife to cut the baby girl from the womb and took the child away with her, later attempting to say the girl was her own.

She pleaded insanity when the case came to court and her lawyers claimed she had been suffering from delusions at the time of the murder.

A statement from the Justice Department said: "In October 2007, a jury in the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri found Montgomery guilty of federal kidnapping resulting in death, and unanimously recommended a death sentence, which the court imposed.

"Her conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal, and her request for collateral relief was rejected by every court that considered it."

Montgomery's lawyers had also argued she was suffering from pseudocyesis, a condition that results in a woman falsely believing she is pregnant and exhibiting outward signs of pregnancy.

The defence argued she was abused as a child and said that because of her severe mental illness, her delusion of being pregnant was being threatened, causing her to enter a dreamlike state at the time of the murder.

But during closing arguments, federal prosecutor Roseann Ketchmark said the pseudocyesis claim was "voodoo science."

She said Montgomery was afraid because she believed her ex-husband would expose she was lying about her pregnancy and use it against her as he tried to win custody of two of the couple's four children, NBC wrote at the time.

She would be the ninth federal convicted criminal to be put to death since the Justice Department resumed executions in July after a break of nearly 20 years.