MELVERN, Kan., Dec. 22 -- Amid the crowded tables at the Whistle Stop Cafe on Melvern's two-block Main Street, Lisa Montgomery proudly showed off the tiny infant she called Abigail last Friday and told everyone the harrowing tale of how she had gone into labor during a shopping trip to Topeka the day before.
In fact, federal prosecutors say, that newborn was Victoria Jo Stinnett, who had been cut from the womb of her mother last Thursday in Skidmore, Mo. Montgomery, 36, is being held without bond on a charge of kidnapping leading to death, a crime that could bring a death sentence.
Zeb Stinnett, background center, watches as pallbearers carry the casket of his wife and high school sweetheart to her burial site in Skidmore, Mo.
(Jessica A. Stewart -- St. Joseph News-press Via AP)
Neighbors here in the rolling brown hills of southeastern Kansas and court papers suggest that the accused killer and kidnapper, facing the loss of custody of her own children, had been desperate to have a child with her second husband, Kevin Montgomery.
Since early fall, Montgomery had been wearing maternity clothes, although she was not pregnant, and told her husband and her neighbors that she was expecting. Last Thursday, she called her husband from a fast-food restaurant in Topeka, about 40 miles north of here, and told him that she had just given birth.
But FBI reports tell a different story. They say that Montgomery arranged a business meeting last week with Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, whom she had known in the dog-breeding industry.
Prosecutors charge that Montgomery strangled Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant. Montgomery then cut open Stinnett's womb with a knife, according to the charges against her, removed the baby girl and drove 200 miles west to Topeka before calling her husband.
The infant, home with her father after three days in a Kansas hospital, appears to be in excellent health, authorities said.
On Thursday morning, Montgomery is to face a preliminary hearing at the federal court in Kansas City, Kan. The court will inform her of the federal charge against her and consider the prosecutor's motion to move the criminal case to Missouri, where the crime occurred.
Kevin Montgomery, who said he drove to Topeka last Thursday night to pick up his wife and the baby, has not been charged. He reportedly told authorities that he believed his wife had delivered the child at a maternity ward on Thursday. He said he was astonished by what had happened.
"The only thing I can think of," he told the Kansas City Star, "is that she wanted a baby so bad."
An acquaintance of Lisa Montgomery's said at the Whistle Stop that "it was pretty clear to everybody that she wanted a baby." The person asked not to be named because "nobody around here wants to be in the media."
"She was so excited when she got pregnant this year -- or I guess we have to say when she said she was pregnant. Her other children were in high school. They weren't babies anymore."
Members of the "Ratter Chatter" community -- an Internet newsroom for fans of rat-terrier dogs -- recalled that Montgomery had proudly reported her pregnancy earlier this year. Then she said that she was carrying twins. Then she reported that one of the twins had died, but the other was still alive. "None of the rat-terrier people believed she was pregnant," terrier breeder Nanci Strudl told the Kansas City Star. "She never gained an ounce."
Montgomery had four babies in four years with her first husband, Carl Boman, court records show. She retained custody of the children, now ages 14 to 17, and they have lived on the Montgomery farm in this cattle-ranching area since Lisa married Kevin Montgomery in 2000. Court records suggest that she also tried unsuccessfully to obtain custody of the three children from Kevin Montgomery's first marriage.