Kansas woman guilty of cutting baby from womb

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KANSAS CITY, Mo., Oct 23 (Reuters) A Kansas woman was found guilty of killing a pregnant woman, cutting the baby from her womb and kidnapping the newborn in a gruesome ruse to pass the child off as her own.

A jury convicted yesterday Lisa M Montgomery, 39, of Melvern, Kansas, on a charge of kidnapping resulting in death, finding she strangled Bobbie Jo Stinnett, the baby's mother, and sliced open her abdomen with a kitchen knife.

At the time of the crime in December 2004, Stinnett was eight months pregnant and Montgomery was pretending to family and friends that she was nine months pregnant, according to evidence presented at the trial.

The baby girl was found a day after the crime at Montgomery's home and returned to her father unharmed.

Montgomery's lawyers argued during the trial that the Kansas woman suffered from a delusional belief that she was pregnant, and said she may have been unable to differentiate between right and wrong when she killed Stinnett.

But prosecutors said Montgomery carefully planned the fatal meeting at Stinnett's home in Skidmore, Missouri, pretending she wanted to purchase a rat terrier puppy.

Montgomery tried to pass off Stinnett's baby as her own, telling her husband she had gone into labor while on a shopping trip and having him pick her up near a Topeka health center where she said she gave birth.

Jurors deliberated four hours after 11 days of testimony.

The charge of kidnapping resulting in murder allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Jurors will begin the penalty phase of the trial tomorrow with a choice between the death penalty or life in federal prison without parole.

Reuters AK VP0705

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