With less than a week to go before her scheduled execution at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Jan. 12, attorneys for Lisa Montgomery are pleading with President Trump to agree to her clemency petition and save her life.
Montgomery’s Tennessee-based lawyer, Kelley Henry, stressed to Fox News on Wednesday that they are not in any way requesting the 52-year-old have her sentenced commuted, but to take the fast-approaching death sentence off the table in favor of life behind bars without parole.
From their purview, Trump “can be a hero” by making a “very public statement about the importance of ending the stigmatization of mental illness.”
“Our country has long recognized that mental illness is a mitigating factor and calls for a lesser punishment,” the executive clemency petition states.
Montgomery, who was convicted of murder and fetal abduction by a Missouri jury in 2008, was initially slated to be put to death on Dec. 8. The Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Prisons rescheduled the date to Jan. 12 after her attorneys contracted the novel coronavirus following a visit to her Texas jail.
Then on Christmas Eve, a federal district court ruled that the government acted illegally in setting the Jan. 12 execution date because the government’s own regulations prevent the setting of an execution date while a stay is in effect. The government subsequently appealed that decision and a three-judge panel reversed the district court.
Montgomery’s legal team appealed to the full United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and that appeal was denied on Jan. 5, 2021.
Montgomery was convicted of killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett, a 23-year-old dog breeder, on Dec. 16, 2004.
The then-36-year-old, Kansas-based Montgomery met Stinnett in an online chatroom called “Ratter Chatter.” Stinnett was talking to prospective buyers for a terrier and happened to mention she was eight months pregnant.
Montgomery, under the customer name Darlene Fischer, claimed she too was expecting – generating an email exchange that led Montgomery to schedule a visit to Stinnett’s home over state lines to view a pup.
Unknown to Stinnett, Montgomery had undergone sterilization after the birth of her fourth child.
On Dec. 16, 2004, Montgomery entered Stinnett’s home, strangled the 23-year-old woman, and proceeded to carve out the premature baby from her womb with a kitchen knife. At one point, Stinnett is said to have woken from her unconscious state and attempted to fight back, only to be strangled to death.
Sightings and anecdotes of Montgomery parading the baby girl in a Winnie the Pooh outfit about town quickly emerged. Montgomery told others from church that she delivered her baby at a women’s center in a nearby Kansas town and that she had given her the biblical name of Abigail.
Stinnett’s lifeless body was discovered by her mother, Becky Harper, about an hour after the assault – and a frantic search for the tiny baby commenced. The following day, after forensic computer scientists traced the online communication between the women, Montgomery was arrested at her home in the 385-person town of Melvern, Kansas, where the newborn was also recovered.
The baby girl survived and was placed in the care of her father. She would now be 16 but has lived a quiet life away from the public eye. Her mother was laid to rest in Skidmore.
However, Montgomery’s supporters and legal team contend that she suffers from severe mental illness induced from a lifetime of extreme physical and sexual abuse, forced into prostitution as a young teen, and evident damage to the brain, as shown in scans viewed by Fox News.
“Lisa Montgomery, who was born with brain damage, suffered a lifetime of sexual torture, and struggles with severe mental illness and keeping in touch with reality, has submitted a petition for executive clemency to President Trump,” a statement from Montgomery’s defense team asserts. “Mrs. Montgomery is the only woman to face execution in America for the type of crime she committed – attacking a pregnant woman and taking the baby – because most prosecutors recognize that such crimes are the product of severe mental illness and trauma.”
The nation’s three leading mental health organizations – the National Alliance of Mental Illness, Mental Health America, and Treatment Advocacy Center – have also written to urge Trump to commute Mrs. Montgomery’s sentence.
“We believe that Ms. Montgomery, who acted in grip of a psychotic episode, should not be subject to the death penalty due to her brain damage and severe mental illnesses, and a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release is an appropriate sentence for her,” the letter said.
If it does go forward, Montgomery will be the first female inmate put to death since 1953.