She strangled a pregnant woman, cut out her baby and tried to pass it off as her own.
The only woman on federal death row has been given a reprieve.
Lisa Montgomery was scheduled to die today by lethal injection for the 2004 murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett.
But on Tuesday morning, just hours before it was due to be carried out, a judge granted a stay of execution, pending a mental competency review.
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Stinnet was 23 years old and eight months pregnant when Montgomery strangled her to death, cut the baby out of her womb and attempted to pass it off as her own.
According to prosecutors, Montgomery, who had been falsely telling family and friends she was pregnant, arranged to meet dog breeder Stinnet after expressing interest in buying a puppy; the pair had met on a chat site where they had discussed their pregnancies.
After driving across state lines to meet her, she choked her to death with a rope before using a kitchen knife she had brought from home to kidnap the unborn baby, court documents showed.
Her defense team have been trying to stop the execution: while they do not contest her guilt, they claim she suffers from severe mental illness, exacerbated by a life of sexual abuse and torture at the hands of her family.
They claim Montgomery’s mother, who they say drank excessively during her pregnancy, was violent and neglectful, beating her, taping her mouth shut when she cried, and even beating her dog to death with a shovel in front of her.
As well as allegedly being repeatedly raped by her step-father as a child, they claimed that her mother began prostituting her out to men as a young teen.
Two days before the murder, Montgomery’s allegedly abusive ex-husband — who was also her step-brother — filed for custody of her two children, which her defenders believe pushed her over the edge.
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Campaigners, including Scarlett Johansson, had called for Montgomery to be spared per her mental state derived from a life of trauma.
On Tuesday they got their wish, albeit temporary, as U.S. District Judge James Hanlon ruled an examination was needed to determine if Montgomery is competent to be executed on mental health grounds.
“The Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of people like Mrs. Montgomery, who due to their mental illness, do not understand the basis for their executions,” her attorney Kelley Henry said in a statement.
“Mrs. Montgomery is mentally deteriorating and we are seeking an opportunity to prove her incompetence,” Henry said in a statement.
Stinnett’s baby, Victoria, survived the ordeal, and was raised by her father.
Had she been killed Tuesday, Montgomery would be only the fourth ever woman executed by the federal government, and the first in 68 years.
She would also be the first to die by lethal injection: Mary Suratt was hanged in 1865 for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln; Ethel Rosenberg was sent to the electric chair in 1953 for spying for the Soviet Union; while Bonnie Heady was condemned to the gas chamber that same year for the ransom and murder of six-year-old auto heir Bobby Greenlease.
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