Even more so than most, the crime, conviction, and execution of Lisa Montgomery raise extremely difficult ethical and legal questions.
Born brain damaged to an alcoholic mother in Melvern, Kansas; raised in an emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive household; forced into prostitution as a child; forced in to two abusive marriages as a teen; and forced into an involuntary tubal ligation at 22; Lisa Montgomery was a deeply disturbed young woman.
Married again but, unbeknownst to her husband, unable to have children, Montgomery hatched a plan to steal a child. Posing as a prospective dog purchaser, she gained entry to the home of Bobby Jo Stinnett on December 16, 2004. She then strangled Stinnett and cut out her unborn fetus. Montgomery then called her husband to tell him she had gone into labor and given birth.
Through computer records documenting exchanges between Stinnett and Montgomery related to dogs, police identified Montgomery as a suspect. She was arrested at her home with the baby on December 17, quickly confessing.
Though Kansas had only reintroduced the death penalty in 1994 and had not conducted an execution since 1965, federal authority for prosecuting Montgomery was asserted through the Federal Kidnapping Act of 1932 (the Lindbergh Law).
Despite considerable evidence of Montgomery’s mental impairment, she was convicted on October 22, 2007, and sentenced to death on October 26. Her conviction and sentence were upheld on appeal, despite additional evidence of significant psychological impairment.
Lisa Marie Montgomery was executed by lethal injection at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on January 13, 2021. She was the first woman executed by the federal government since Bonnie Heady was executed, also for a Kansas kidnapping and murder, in 1953.