Mother 'still alive' as baby was cut from her womb

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The Independent US

An eight-months pregnant woman was probably still alive and trying to fight off her attacker as her unborn baby was crudely cut from her womb, according to prosecution testimony in the trial of the woman charged in the mother-to-be's death.

"You could see swirls in the floor in the blood, showing there was a struggle," said Nodaway County Sheriff Ben Espey, the first law enforcement officer to respond to an emergency call at victim Bobbie Jo Stinnett's home.

Lisa Montgomery, 39, is accused of strangling Stinnett on 16 December 2004, and using a kitchen knife to cut the baby from her womb. Ms Montgomery has pleaded not guilty.

The baby, Victoria Jo Stinnett, survived and is now almost 3 years old.

Police tracked down Ms Montgomery and the baby the next day in Melvern, Kansas through emails Montgomery had sent Stinnett about buying a rat terrier, which Stinnett and her husband raised at their home in Skidmore, Missouri.

Prosecutors have said they would seek the death penalty if Ms Montgomery is convicted. The trial, which began on Thursday, is expected to take at least three weeks.

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," Mr Whitworth said as he detailed Montgomery's computer searches on websites about how to perform cesarean sections and home births.

The defence attorney, Frederick Duchardt Jr, told the jury that the defence would not deny Montgomery's involvement in Stinnett's death but they 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.

On cross-examination by the defence, Espey acknowledged that his original report said Stinnett was found lying "in a pool of blood" and did not mention patterns in the blood that would have suggested a fight.