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U.S. woman convicted for kidnapping unborn baby from womb

Rejecting an insanity defence, a jury convicted a woman of killing an expectant mother, cutting the baby from her womb and taking the surviving infant home.

Rejecting an insanity defence, a jury in Kansas City,Mo., convicted a woman of killing an expectant mother, cutting the baby from her womb and taking the surviving infant home.

Lisa Montgomery is shown in a booking photo released on Dec. 20, 2004, by the Wyandotte County sheriff's department. ((Wyandotte County sheriff's department/Associated Press))

Jurors deliberated for about four hours Monday before finding Lisa Montgomery, 39, guilty of kidnapping resulting in death in the 2004 attack on 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett. Montgomery's attorneys must now try to persuade the same jurors to spare their client's life.

The jury was to take a break Tuesday and begin hearing evidence Wednesday in the penalty phase of the trial. Prosecutors said they plan to seek the death penalty. Jurors can also recommend life in federal prison without the possibility of parole.

In reaching their verdict, the jury was asked to determine why— not whether— Montgomery attacked Stinnett on Dec. 16, 2004, at Stinnett's home in Skidmore. Jurors could have acquitted her outright or found her not guilty by reason of insanity.

After the verdict was read, Montgomery dried her eyes and one of her attorneys patted her back. Her husband, Kevin, and Stinnett's husband, Zeb, showed no emotion.

Defence attorneys claimed Montgomery was suffering from pseudocyesis, which causes a woman to falsely believe she is pregnant and exhibit outward signs of pregnancy.

They portrayed her as a victim of severe mental illness whose delusion of being pregnant was being threatened, causing her to enter a dreamlike state when the killing took place.

They also argued that she had post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by mental, physical and sexual abuse in her childhood.

Prosecutors said Montgomery is not criminally insane and was faking mental illness to help her defence. They said she had a history of pretending to be pregnant to get attention and avoid work.

By the fall of 2004, prosecutors said, Montgomery was facing mounting pressure to have a baby.

Her relatives were telling Kevin Montgomery and his parents that Montgomery was incapable of having children after undergoing a tubal ligation in 1990.

And Montgomery's ex-husband, Carl Boman, told her he suspected she was faking the pregnancy and that he planned to use that against her to obtain custody of two of the couple's four children. A custody hearing had been set for January 2005.

Evidence of premeditation: prosecution

As Montgomery's purported Dec. 13, 2004, due date approached, she began conducting internet searches on Stinnett and researching different aspects of childbirth. The defence portrayed those efforts as evidence that she believed she was pregnant; the prosecution called them proof of premeditation.

Prosecutors said Montgomery used a rope to choke Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant. But Stinnett was conscious and trying to defend herself as Montgomery used a kitchen knife to cut the baby girl from the womb, prosecutors said.

Montgomery was arrested the next day after spending the morning showing off the infant as her own in her hometown of Melvern, Kan.

After initially denying the crime, Montgomery told investigators she had taken a knife, rope and umbilical cord clamp with her to Stinnett's home.

Montgomery said she had thought she was leaving the home when "something out of character" happened and "then this took place."

Montgomery's attorneys and a spokesman for Stinnett's family declined to comment after the verdict was announced. Stinnett's baby is living with her family.

"The only good thing that comes from this tragedy is that little Victoria is a healthy baby and is reunited with her family," U.S. attorney John F. Wood said.