Expecting parents typically look forward to the birth of their child with much excitement and anticipation. The day your first child is born, the day you become Mommy or Daddy, is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. For Zeb Stinnett, the day he became a father will also be one of the worst days of his life. It’s the day his wife, Bobbie Jo, was viciously murdered and his newborn daughter kidnapped. This is the story a story of fetal abduction and murder. This is the story of Bobbie Jo Stinnett.
On December 4th, 1981, Bobbie Jo Potter was born in rural northwest Missouri. She was known as a happy, loving, and sometimes shy person. She graduated from high school in 2000 and soon after married her high school sweetheart, Zeb Stinnett. The two married in 2002 and settled in a small white house in Skidmore, Missouri. The town of Skidmore has less than 300 residents and most knew and loved Zeb and Bobbie. Zeb and Bobbie were looking forward to the birth of their first child, due in January of 2005. In the meantime, Bobbie raised, bred, and showed rat terrier puppies.
In early 2004, Bobbie Jo (right) attended a dog show and met a woman from Melvern, Kansas, named Lisa Montgomery. Lisa and her daughter also raised rat terriers and the two women and young lady bonded over their shared love for the breed. After the show, Bobbie began corresponding with Lisa, her daughter, and other dog breeders on an online message board called Ratter Chatter. In the spring of 2004, Lisa and Bobbie began sharing another similarity in their lives, both were expecting a baby. Another woman, Darlene Fisher, also began corresponding with Bobbie Jo.
In December of 2004, Bobbie Jo was eight months pregnant. Her online friend, Darlene Fisher, had showed interest in the puppies Bobbie Jo had in Skidmore, Missouri. Darlene communicated on Ratter Chatter with Bobbie and made arrangements to come and visit Bobbie. She hoped to look at the puppies and possibly buy one from Bobbie Jo. At least that is what Bobbie Jo thought was going to happen. As the dirty red car pulled up in the Skidmore, Missouri, driveway on December 16th, Bobbie hung up the phone from her mother to attend to her guest.
(Left: Zeb & Bobbie Jo Stinnett)
Bobbie was supposed to pick her mother up from work that afternoon but failed to show up. When Bobbie Jo’s mother was unable to reach her daughter after a while, she decided to stop by her daughter’s home. When she arrived, she found her worst nightmare. Bobbie Jo lay on the floor of her small home surrounded by a pool of blood. According to the 911 call from her mother, it appeared as if Bobbie’s “stomach exploded” (Phelps, M., 2007). Bobbie was pronounced dead at the scene. More shocking than the murder, Bobbie Jo’s baby was not inside her body, and it appeared the fetus had been cut out of her uterus and abducted.
At the time of this heinous crime, Amber Alerts could only be issued if identifiable information could be provided to law enforcement and an Amber Alert had never been issued for a fetus. However, investigators fought hard to have an exception made in this case and an Amber Alert was issued for baby Stinnett. The case shocked the small town of Skidmore and the entire Midwest. Before long, the story was broadcast around the country and the entire world. Who would do this?
Investigators received multiple tips through phone calls. One of the calls was from a woman who was a part of the Ratter Chatter message board and explained that a woman named Darlene Fisher was planning to meet Bobbie Jo that day. Darlene was apparently from Missouri, but investigators could not locate the woman or substantiate that she even existed. Another tip came out of Georgia, in which the woman said that an acquaintance of hers had brought home a newborn child but those who knew her had serious doubts the woman had ever been pregnant. The woman’s name was Lisa Montgomery.
The cyber crimes unit was able to track the messages from Darlene Fisher to an IP address in Melvern, Kansas. The address was listed as Kevin Montgomery, husband of Lisa Montgomery. Even more telling, Lisa Montgomery drove a dirty red car which witnesses placed at the home at the time of the crime. Since a child may have been kidnapped and taken across the Missouri and Kansas state line, the FBI became involved in the investigation and began staking out the Montgomery home in Kansas.
While the FBI was staking out the home in Melvern, Kansas, Lisa Montgomery returned to her farmhouse in her red car with her husband and a newborn child. Police knocked on the door and noticed that Lisa and her husband were watching news coverage about the murder and kidnapping in Skidmore, Missouri. Police said that Lisa was walking around as if she had just given birth and claimed the child was her own. Her husband told authorities that his wife called her on December 16th and explained she had given birth in a birthing center in Topeka, Kansas. The two had named their child Abigail.
When pressed on the issue of Abigail’s birth, Lisa (right) admitted she did not give birth at the birthing center and could not produce paperwork to prove she did. She then claimed that she had a home birth, but her husband claimed that was not the case. The child was taken to the hospital and was placed in the neonatal care unit where DNA testing was to be performed. Under interrogation, Lisa Montgomery, age thirty-six, broke down and admitted that the baby was not hers. She admitted to strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett and cutting the baby from her womb.
DNA testing confirmed that the baby was Zeb and Bobbie Jo’s daughter. Despite being born a month early and not having proper nutrition related to failed breastfeeding attempts by Lisa Montgomery, the baby was in surprisingly good health and was released after a short time to her father’s care. The child, named Victoria Jo, was born December 16th, 2004, and will forever share her birthday with the anniversary of her mother’s brutal murder.
(Above: Zeb & Victoria Jo)
Lisa Montgomery was born February 27th, 1968. Her parents divorced and her mother Judy raised her, with her father basically abandoning her. As a child, her mother remarried, and Lisa and her stepsister claim that Lisa was raped and abused repeatedly at the hands of her stepfather. In fact, there are also allegations that her mother would allow men to sexually abuse Lisa as a child in exchange for handyman work. Her mother denied this. At one point, Lisa claimed to be pregnant by her stepfather, but her mother denies that Lisa was ever impregnated by her stepfather. However, when Judy divorced her second husband, she did tell the police that he was abusing Lisa sexually. Unfortunately, the step father was never prosecuted.
When she was eighteen years old, Lisa married her stepbrother, the son of her mother’s third husband. Carl and Lisa had four children together, but Carl claims Lisa was a pathological liar and cheater. According to Lisa’s sister, Carl sexually abused and raped Lisa. Carl denies this and states that Lisa started numerous rumors about him to turn his children against him. He states he loved Lisa, even marrying her a second time, but ultimately, she was too much of a manipulative liar for the marriage to work.
Once Lisa divorced Carl the second time, she met and married Kevin Montgomery. Kevin was divorced with three sons. When married the first time, Kevin and his former wife lost a baby girl. Soon after Lisa and Kevin married, Lisa started to tell her ex-husband and children she was pregnant. Carl states that it was impossible as Lisa had her tubes cut, tied, and burned after the birth of their fourth child in 1990. It seemed Lisa’s new husband and children believed her, however, until she claimed to have had multiple miscarriages.
According to the people in Melvern, Kansas, Lisa was a liar, and no one believed she was pregnant anymore after she had claimed to be repeatedly and never had a baby. Some said Lisa was great at “swallowing air and pushing her belly out” to appear pregnant. She wore baggy clothes and told everyone she was due in December 2004. On December 15th, Lisa told a friend she delivered a baby girl, fulfilling her husband’s dream of having a daughter. On the morning of December 16th, she told her daughter she was going shopping in order to induce labor and that she “had a feeling that today is the day” (Phelps, M., 2007).
Instead of going shopping, Lisa drove one-hundred-seventy-five miles to Skidmore, Missouri. She had previously purchased a box cutter, home birthing kit, and clamp. She messaged Bobbie Jo Stinnett, as Darlene Fisher, telling her she’d arrive soon to look at Bobbie’s puppies. When she arrived, she overpowered a very pregnant Bobbie, strangled her until she was subdued, and then cut open her abdomen. Blood on the feet of Bobbie Jo lead authorities to believe that she regained consciousness when Lisa began cutting Victoria Jo out of her body. Once the baby was removed from her mother’s body, Lisa wrapped her up and fled the area in the red car, pinching the umbilical cord. Lisa said she stopped outside of town and clamped the baby’s umbilical cord. Bobbie Jo died as a result of massive blood loss.
Lisa then admitted that she called her husband and children and told them that she had just delivered a baby at the birthing center in Topeka. Her husband and kids drove to Topeka and picked up Lisa and the baby from a fast-food restaurant. Her children, admittedly, had been having doubts about if their mother was truly pregnant. Their father, who was suing for custody, had told them their mother was a pathological liar and had planned to present Lisa’s lies to the court as proof she was an unstable mother. He was seeking full custody of the kids.
Lisa tried to breastfeed the baby, whom she called Abigail, repeatedly throughout the two days she was with the child but was not successful as her breasts were not producing milk. Instead, she took the one-day old child around town to show her off to everyone she knew. Some people thought it was odd to have a newborn out and about in winter at just one day old, but in retrospect most people believe this was Lisa’s attempt to prove to everyone she had not lied about being pregnant. However, Lisa’s fantasy world crumbled on December 18th, 2004, when she was arrested.
Lisa was charged on the federal level with kidnapping resulting in death, which made her eligible for the death penalty. The United States Federal Government had only executed two other women throughout history, both occurring in 1953. Ethel Rosenburg was executed for espionage in June 1953, followed by Bonnie Brown Heady in December 1953 for kidnapping and murdering a six-year-old boy (Death Penalty Information Center). It seemed unlikely Lisa Montgomery would be given a death sentence despite the overwhelming evidence against her.
After several delays, Lisa Montgomery finally went to trial in 2008 for the heinous murder and kidnapping that occurred on that cold midwestern winter day in 2004. It was hard to argue the case, as Lisa was literally caught with the baby in her arms. Furthermore, evidence showed that Lisa had done significant planning of this crime by catfishing her victim, arranging the meeting with her victim, and even purchasing a home birthing kit in advance. She had watched videos online about how to perform cesarean sections. She even drove the three hours to Skidmore, Missouri from her Kansas home the day before, as a “trial run”.
Lisa’s defense centered around her history of alleged sexual, physical, mental, and emotional abuse. Lisa’s defense claimed that she was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and sustained brain injuries during car accidents during her life. Additionally, she was diagnosed in prison with bipolar disorder, dissociative disorder, psychosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Catholic News Agency, 2021). The jury considered the evidence and found Lisa Montgomery guilty of kidnapping resulting in death and sentenced her to death.
Despite several appeals and a petition to President Donald Trump for clemency, Lisa Montgomery was executed January 13th, 2021. Her stepsister and death penalty opponents fought until the last minute to prevent the execution, hoping instead that Lisa’s sentence would be commuted to life in prison. However, it was not to be. An emergency stay of execution was overturned and Lisa was executed. When asked if she had any last words, she simply said “no” (Tarm, M., 2021). She was pronounced dead at 1:31 am, January 13th, 2021, from the Federal death chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana. She was the first woman executed in nearly seventy years by the federal government.
Despite those who knew Bobbie having emotions of relief and feelings that justice had finally been served for Bobbie Jo Stinnett, others felt that Lisa Montgomery had lost touch with reality and could no longer understand the reason for her execution. Those who opposed the execution felt that it was a power play by outgoing President Donald Trump, under which more executions have been carried out in the last year of his presidency than any other year since the 1800s (BBC, 2021). There are even allegations that Lisa Montgomery was denied spiritual counseling in her last moments, but the Department of Justice denies this.
Victoria Jo is now sixteen years old. I think it’s important to consider that this young woman not only has to grow up without her mother, but her birthday will forever signify one of the worst days of her family’s lives, the day her mother died. Lisa Montgomery may or may not have been mentally ill and likely did suffer traumatic abuse as a child, but that is no excuse for the horrific violence she inflicted on Bobbie Jo Stinnett.
BBC (2021) The execution of Lisa Montgomery; Retrieved at: The execution of Lisa Montgomery - BBC News - YouTube
Lussenhop, J. (2021) Lisa Montgomery: looking for answers in the life of a killer; BBC News; Retrieved at: Lisa Montgomery: Looking for answers in the life of a killer - BBC News
Murderpedia (2021) Lisa Marie Montgomery; Retrieved at: Lisa Montgomery | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
United States of America V. Lisa M. Montgomery (2010) United States of America V. Lisa M. Montgomery; Justia Law; Retrieved at: United States v. Lisa Montgomery, No. 08-1780 (8th Cir. 2011) :: Justia
FindAGrave (2021) Bobbie Jo Potter Stinnett; Retrieved at: Bobbie Jo Potter Stinnett (1981-2004) - Find A Grave Memorial
CNN (2004) Baby found alive; woman arrested; CNN; Retrieved at: CNN.com - Baby found alive; woman arrested - Dec 18, 2004
Death Penalty Information Center (2021) Executions under the federal death penalty; Retrieved at: Executions Under the Federal Death Penalty | Death Penalty Information Center
Catholic News Agency (2021) US executes Lisa Montgomery despite concerns over mental illness; Retrieved at: US executes Lisa Montgomery despite concerns over mental illness | Catholic News Agency
Tarm, M. (2021) Lisa Montgomery’s last words before execution: ‘no’; Heavy.com; Retrieved at: Lisa Montgomery’s Last Words Before Execution: ‘No’ | Heavy.com
Phelps, M. William (2007) Murder in the Heartland; Pinnacle Publishing; Available for purchase on Amazon: Murder In The Heartland: Phelps, M. William: 9780786017829: Amazon.com: Books