In December 2004, Lisa Montgomery was arrested after killing a pregnant woman. The now 52-year-old has been in custody since then. Her death sentence is due to be carried out on January 12. The life story of the woman who became a murderer is monstrous.
Lisa Montgomery is due to die by lethal injection on January 12th. She would only be the fourth woman on whom this sentence has been carried out in US history. The last two executions of women were almost 70 years ago. In 1953, Ethel Rosenberg died in the electric chair and Bonnie Heady in the gas chamber. But that’s not all that makes the case of Montgomery, who sits as a convicted murderer on death row of the maximum security prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, special. Rather, it is the act for which the now 52-year-old was convicted and the life story that ultimately made her a murderer from the point of view of her supporters.
On December 16, 2004, the then 36-year-old went to Skidmore, Missouri. Bobbie Jo Stinnet lives there. The young woman is eight months pregnant with her first child and is breeding dogs. Montgomery pretends to be interested in a puppy. Before that, the women wrote each other emails. In it, Montgomery had claimed to be pregnant himself and thus developed a relationship with her future victim. In the course of the process, the course of the crime is presented in such a way that the unsuspecting Stinnet lets Montgomery into the house. Then she is attacked from behind and strangled to the point of unconsciousness. While her victim is probably still alive, Montgomery cuts the 23-year-old’s stomach with a kitchen knife and rips the baby out. When she was arrested a day later, she was sitting on the couch at home with the infant she claims to be hers. Investigators quickly tracked her down through forensic computer tests.
At first it was speculated that Montgomery may have suffered a miscarriage and wanted to replace the lost child with the kidnapped. It then turns out, however, that she had already had a sterilizing procedure against her will in 1990, during which the fallopian tubes were permanently blocked. At this point she already had four children. According to the first and second husbands, she had previously claimed to be pregnant, but that was not true. In October 2007, Montgomery was found guilty and in April 2008 she was sentenced to death.
Torture and humiliation
But the life story of Montgomery only comes up in the appointment hearing. It is an incredible story of abuse, physical and emotional abuse. According to research by the British Guardian, Montgomery witnessed her eight-year-old half-sister Diane being abused by a male babysitter as a young child. Since she was eleven years old, she herself has been raped in every possible way by her stepfather once or twice a week. He prepares a special room for this at the rear of the caravan. When she struggles, he presses her pillow to the face or hits her head on the concrete floor. The injuries are still visible on MRI brain scans. He’s also constantly monitoring her in this room too. There was only one corner where the girl stood for hours to avoid constant observation.
When her mother witnesses the abuse, she threatens her daughter with a gun and blames her for the acts. Later, her stepfather also invites friends to join the rapes, which, according to the Guardian, “went on for hours and ended with the men urinating on her like she was rubbish.” Her mother goes on to “trade in” her daughter for plumber or electrician services.
All of childhood consists of constant humiliation, torture, and humiliation. Social workers visiting the family ignore this. A pediatrician who clearly identified the rapes did not pass the information on. Montgomery’s half-sister Diane, who was later taken in by a foster family, supports this view. Lisa was literally broken, she says looking back.
Unimaginable for a healthy person
At the age of 18, Lisa Montgomery fled these circumstances into an early marriage, but both her relationship with her first husband and her second marriage were again marked by violence and sexual assault. “This is the story of a woman who is seriously mentally ill as a result of lifelong torture and sexual violence,” quoted the British newspaper Sandra Babcock, the faculty director of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide. Katherine Porterfield, a child psychologist who specializes in the treatment of survivors of torture and who spent hours with Montgomery on appeal in 2016, also believes that such violence led to the murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnet. “We need to understand what can make someone so disconnected from their actions that they are able to do something that a normal, healthy person would find unimaginable,” said Porterfield.
In prison, Montgomery diagnoses various bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, psychosis, mood swings, dissociations, and memory loss, among others. It is also clear that in the trial that led to the death penalty, in Fred Duchardt, she had a defense attorney who barely stood up for his client. It wasn’t until years after the trial that the extent of the violence Montgomery had suffered became clear. In a trial, that should have mitigated the penalty, as well as the fact that the defendant was and still is mentally ill at the time.
With a last plea for clemency, Montgomery’s lawyers have now turned to the outgoing US President Donald Trump. He should overturn the death sentence and commute it to life imprisonment with no appeal. With this he could set an example for women who were tortured and raped in their childhood. But Trump is a proponent of the death penalty and a few days before the end of his term in office does not give the impression that he cares about a fate other than his own.