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Fetus Survives Killing of Mother

FBI Tracks Baby To Kansas Couple

By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 18, 2004; Page A01

An 8-month-old fetus cut from the womb of her strangled mother in Missouri turned up healthy and very much alive Friday in Kansas, where police arrested a woman for kidnapping and suspicion of murder.

The discovery of the baby girl provided the only glimmer of good news on the day after 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett was found strangled and unconscious in Skidmore, Mo. The baby she had carried nearly to term was gone.

Bobbie Jo Stinnett of Skidmore, Mo., was found slain in her home Thursday. Stinnett's baby girl, who apparently was cut from her womb, was found in good health Friday. Two people were in custody. (Todd Weddle -- St. Joseph News-press Via AP)

The FBI said Lisa M. Montgomery, 36, posed on the Internet as a customer for Stinnett's dog-breeding business, then killed her for her baby. The Web revealed message traffic between the two on the eve of the homicide.

Nodaway County Sheriff Ben Espey said the attacker worked deftly and probably had some medical knowledge. After the rescue, a pediatrician examined the newborn, and Stinnett's husband, Zeb, was united with the baby.

"We have no indications that the child was hurt in any way," Espey told reporters. "The child's probably going to be okay."

Fast sleuthing by the FBI and private computer security specialists who traced e-mail messages to Montgomery's house in Melvern, Kan., led investigators to the baby. An FBI affidavit released Friday night alleged that Montgomery admitted to strangling Stinnett.

The case, as shocking as it was, is not unique in the region. One year ago, Oklahoma police charged a woman with murdering an acquaintance and stealing her 6-month-old fetus because she wanted a baby of her own. The fetus died.

Bobbie and Zeb Stinnett lived in a modest, whitewashed clapboard house and had been married about a year. They were expecting their first child. They worked at a Kawasaki factory and raised rat terriers for sale, posting photographs of the dogs on their Web site, www.happyhavenfarms.com.

"Our puppies are placed in only the very best homes with the family that fits them best," the cheery Happy Haven site says. "Let us help you find your next pet, rat terrier or otherwise."

One dog currently featured on the site is named Tipsy. An acquaintance named Kayla had recently written, "Bobbie. It was nice meeting you at Abilene! I love all the pictures!"

Although it remained unclear how Montgomery knew Stinnett was pregnant, the dog-breeding business provided her introduction, according to the affidavit drafted by FBI Special Agent Craig Arnold, who gave the following account.

Zeb Stinnett was at work on Thursday afternoon when his wife was attacked. Bobbie was expecting someone to come look at her dogs, according to her mother, Becky Harper. At about 2:30 p.m., she told her mother by telephone, "Oh, they're here. I've got to go."

At 3:38 p.m., Harper called 911. She had gone to the house and found Bobbie unconscious. She said it looked as though her daughter's "stomach had exploded," Arnold wrote. Someone had made a lateral cut across her abdomen and removed the fetus.

Paramedics tried in vain to revive her. When doctors pronounced her dead at 4:27 p.m., they also concluded that the baby was likely alive but could be suffering by being born so violently, one month early.

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