Kansas City, Mo. Eight months pregnant, Bobbie Jo Stinnett engaged in a bloody fight for her life on the afternoon she was eviscerated and the baby was crudely cut from her womb, according to prosecution testimony Thursday in the federal trial of the woman charged in Stinnett's death.
"There was a struggle," said Nodaway County Sheriff Ben Espey, the first law enforcement officer to respond to an emergency call at Stinnett's home. "You could see swirls in the floor in the blood, showing there was a struggle.
"Bobbie Jo had jagged wounds on her lower abdomen. I noticed her stomach had been jaggedly cut open and some intestines were protruding from the body," he said.
Lisa Montgomery, 39, of Melvern, Kan., is accused of strangling Stinnett on Dec. 16, 2004, and using a kitchen knife to cut the baby from her womb. The baby, Victoria Jo Stinnett, survived and is now almost 3 years old.
Police tracked down Montgomery and the baby the next day in Melvern through e-mails Montgomery had sent Stinnett about buying a rat terrier, which Stinnett and her husband raised at their Skidmore home in northwest Missouri.
Thursday marked the start of testimony in Montgomery's trial in federal court, where prosecutors have announced their intention to seek the death penalty if Montgomery is convicted.
The trial is expected to take at least three weeks.
Montgomery has pleaded not guilty.
Defense attorney Frederick Duchardt Jr. told the jury Thursday the defense would not deny Montgomery's involvement in Stinnett's death.
But the defense intended to show Montgomery suffered from mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by years of abuse that included being raped by a stepfather from when she was about 12 until she was 16.
Duchardt also told the six-man, six-woman jury in his opening statements that Montgomery has a condition called pseudocyesis, in which a woman falsely believes she is pregnant and can exhibit some of the outward signs of pregnancy.
It was those mental illnesses, compounded by a brewing custody battle with her former husband over their four children, that pushed Montgomery to killing Stinnett, Duchardt said.
In his opening, federal prosecutor Matt J. Whitworth said the government will call witnesses who will testify that Montgomery was not insane at the time of the killing, as well as a physician who will testify that Stinnett was "likely still alive when the baby was being cut from her womb."
"This defendant spent a great deal of time planning this crime," Whitworth said as he detailed Montgomery's computer searches on Web sites about how to perform cesarean sections and home births.