A mother-of-four who stalked and killed a pregnant woman before stealing her baby delivered a final insult to her victim when she tried to escape the death penalty on a series of technicalities.
Lisa Montgomery, 51, learned this week that she will be executed on December 8 for the 2004 murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett and kidnapping Stinnett's baby from the womb.
She will die by lethal injection in the execution chamber at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.
But court documents have revealed the lengths she went to in a bid to avoid full responsibility for her shocking crime.
Montgomery, who told friends and family members – including her husband – that the baby was hers, was sentenced to death for her crime in 2007.
But in 2011, she argued in the US Court of Appeal that she suffered a breach of her constitutional rights because of "the exclusion of expert evidence (at trial), prosecutorial misconduct, failure to properly instruct the jury, and submission to the jury of an unproven aggravating factor".
Key to her lawyers' argument was the wording of the charges against her. She was charged with "kidnapping resulting in death" for strangling Stinnett with an electrical cord and cutting her stomach open.
But in her motion to prohibit the Government seeking the death penalty, she argued that the baby was "not considered a person until it was removed from her mother's womb".
She contended that because Stinnett died before the baby was "born", the kidnapping could not be the cause of death. Instead, her argument was framed this way: "It was a death resulting in kidnapping".
"Montgomery concedes that she had completed the crime of kidnapping after she removed the infant from the womb, held (the baby) for purposes of claiming the infant as her own, and transported the infant (home)," court documents read.
"But she argues that because (the victim) died with her foetus in utero, there was no kidnapping of a person resulting in death."
A jury dismissed the assertion outright, but Montgomery wasn't done there. Through her lawyers she attempted to poke holes in the prosecutors' argument that she "committed the offence in an especially heinous or deprived manner that involved serious physical abuse to the victim".
Montgomery's argument was that she "only used the force necessary to commit the offence and thus the evidence was insufficient to submit the factor to the jury," the documents read.
That point, too, was unsuccessful, as was the argument that she was insane. Instead, doctors diagnosed her with depression, borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
One doctor diagnosed her with pseudocyesis – a condition defined as the false belief of being pregnant – but another doctor rejected that diagnosis.
It left Montgomery out of options. Unless her lawyers appeal for a stay on her execution, she will die in just over six weeks, ending an ordeal that Stinnett's family has endured for almost 16 years.
The lies that piled up
It was in March 2004 that Montgomery hatched her plan to kill a woman she had met at a dog show and stalked online.
She found out Stinnett was pregnant and began telling friends and family that she was pregnant. She wore maternity clothes and told her new husband that she was going to medical appointments that didn't exist.
He didn't know that after giving birth to four children years earlier, she had undergone tubal ligation.
In conversations with Stinnett, Montgomery adopted the alias "Darlene Fischer" and inquired about a litter of puppies her unsuspecting victim was advertising.
Montgomery arranged for an inspection in December 2004, when Stinnett was eight months pregnant, driving 280km from Kansas to neighbouring Missouri to look at the dogs.
She arrived at 12.30pm. In her jacket she had a large knife and a white cord. At 2.30pm, Stinnett's mother Becky Harper phoned to confirm she could get a lift home from work in an hour's time. But her daughter never showed up. She tried her again at 3.30pm and eventually walked home.
When she got there, Stinnett was on the floor covered in blood. Her mother called police and said it looked like her daughter's stomach "had exploded", court documents reveal.
Montgomery had strangled her victim with the cord until unconscious and cut her stomach to remove the baby. She drove away "holding the baby in her arms and pinching the umbilical cord", documents show.
Miraculously, the baby was uninjured. Montgomery cleaned the little girl with wipes and removed a baby seat from the boot of her car. She called her husband and told him she had gone into labour and given birth.
The Montgomerys called friends and family to deliver the news and ran errands the following day. But the bliss did not last long. Police knocked on her door the day after the crime and found her holding the baby on the couch.
She confessed after a drawn-out story that involved a series of lies easily identified. The baby was returned to her father, who named her Victoria.
Court documents show Montgomery was "physically and sexually abused by her stepfather" for years. She had an on-again, off-again relationship with her mother who blamed her for the divorce.
She married her stepbrother, Carl Boman, in 1986 and had her four children within four years. They divorced in 1998 and she met and married Kevin Montgomery in 2000.
In 2002, she told him she was pregnant but that the baby had died and she had donated its body to science. She had banned him from attending her medical appointments – of which there were none – so the fabrication was not immediately discovered.
'I will prove you wrong'
Boman got wind of the fake pregnancies and threatened to not only expose her but to use the lies in a custody battle to take back the pair's four children.
He sent her emails containing the threats and she told him she would "prove you wrong". Days later she was handcuffed, led away and charged with kidnapping resulting in death.
At trial, where Montgomery presented a defence of insanity, the jury was asked to decide between conflicting medical reports about the pseudocyesis diagnosis.
One doctor presented an opinion that Montgomery suffered from the delusion and was in a dissociative state when she murdered Stinnett and cut the baby out of her womb.
He suggested her childhood sexual abuse predisposed her to the condition and that it was furthered by internet research about home births and hormones to assist in delivery.
But another doctor said: "Montgomery did not suffer from pseudocyesis at the time of the offence because she did not hold a sincere belief that she was pregnant," court documents show.
"When asked what evidence indicated that Montgomery did not believe she was pregnant, (the doctor) replied that Montgomery was well aware that she had undergone permanent sterilisation, despite her statements that the procedure had been reversed.
"With her previous pregnancies, she sought prenatal care, had her husband attend the appointments and gave birth in the hospital. But with this alleged pregnancy, Montgomery did not seek medical confirmation of the pregnancy or prenatal care."
Montgomery will be the first woman executed in the US for 67 years. But hers is not the only federal execution scheduled for December.
Brando Bernard, who murdered two youth ministers in 1999 will be executed on December 10.
The executions will be the eighth and ninth this year after the Trump administration ended a 17-year hiatus in Federal executions in July.