FEMALE HANNIBAL LECTOR
By Jon Christian Ryter
December 21, 2004
America was transfixed on the strange, almost unbelievable story that trickled out of the small, rural town where nothing bad ever happens. The gruesome, macabre story actually developed in the mind of the killer—a female Hannibal Lector who had befriended the victim whose death would arouse a nation. The friend desperately wanted a baby. She even managed to convince her husband—and the town in which she lived—that she was pregnant. Her friends had even thrown her a baby shower. Somewhere and at some warped time on that bizarre, twisted fantasy-riddled journey within her own mind, the woman decided she would kill her pregnant friend and simply claim the friend's baby as her own.
Oh...you think you've heard the story? Yes, I guess perhaps you did—a year ago. On December 22, 2003 Carolyn Simpson, 21, left her place of employment—a tribal gambling casino in Okemah, Oklahoma—with a woman who had befriended her a month or so earlier, Effie Goodson, 37. Goodson was a fairly frequent patron of the casino. That is where she and Simpson met. Simpson did not get home that evening. Her body was discovered by a hunter on December 29. She had been shot in the head and gutted like game. Her fetus was gone.
By the time Simpson's body was found, her killer was in custody. On December 23, Goodson brought the dead fetus to the hospital in Holdenville where she lived, claiming she had given birth to the baby at home, but that there was something wrong with the baby. Doctors insisted on checking her as well, and a cursory examination determined that it was impossible for Goodson to have been the mother of the "miscarried" baby. They called police and Goodson was taken into custody.
When the macabre story broke nationally on Monday, Dec. 29, one of those whose interest was peaked by the news broadcast was Lisa M. Montgomery, a 36-year Malvern, Kansas woman who had given birth to four children from two different husbands and had currently had two high school age children living at home. We will probably never know Montgomery's initial thoughts to the breaking news story, but I suspect she thought Goodman was stupid for bringing the dead fetus to the hospital, and was even more stupid to let the hospital examine her. And, of course, if this became the basis for her own plot to snatch the living fetus from a mother-to-be, Montgomery would have concluded that they—Simpson and Goodson—lived too close to one another. One woman—who never visited a Ob-Gyn for prenatal care—has as a new baby at precisely the same time a baby is ripped from the belly of another woman. Would people think it was too much of a coincidence?
We will likely never know how much the Simpson-Goodman incident initially influenced her thinking, but quite likely it was the catalyst that started Montgomery on her own version of the same macabre journey traveled by Goodson. Only, I suspect Montgomery thought she was smarter than Goodson and would never get caught. And, because Goodson's "prize" died because it was removed from the womb too early, logic suggests Montgomery knew she would have to wait until the fruit was ripe before she plucked it from the tree. She would wait until her victim was ready to deliver a full-term baby.
Montgomery, who lives in Malvern, Kansas, first contacted Bobbi Jo Stinnett through a dog breeders bulleting board. She wanted to buy a rat terrier and Stinnett was a breeder. It was one of those chance, absolutely fluke encounters that should have just come and gone. And likely it would have if Stinnett hadn't happily told Montgomery that she just learned she was pregnant. It was her first, and she was expectedly excited.
It's unclear when Montgomery began piecing together her foolproof plan, but logic suggests she carefully reconstructed, in her mind, the mistakes Goodson made in Oklahoma. At some point early on, Montgomery decided she could pull it off. She lived two States away from Stinnett. Because their only connection was through the Internet, Montgomery was convinced that nobody knew they were acquainted. She had achieved—and was convinced she could maintain—complete anonymity. The plan was well conceived and, Montgomery was certain that on Dec. 17, it would be well executed without leaving a clue that could be followed to her.
Back in the spring as Bobbi Jo excitedly shared the news that she was pregnant with Lisa, Montgomery announced to her own husband, Kevin Montgomery, and to her own friends and neighbors, that she was pregnant. She would give birth, she told them, sometime around the end of December—using the general information provided to her by Stinnett. I wonder if Montgomery thought about the irony of Goodson killing Simpson a year earlier—in December? Merry Christmas. Those interviewed by the FBI believe she was pregnant and lost the baby early on.
Her friends threw her a baby shower just as Effie Goodson's friends threw her a baby shower. I suspect she was consciously determined not to make the mistakes Goodson made. Her baby would live...and she would not get caught.
Over the Internet, Lisa and Bobbi Jo became the closest of friends and Bobbi Jo shared her "baby moments" with Lisa. Logic suggests, even though I don't know that as fact, that Lisa then shared "her" baby moments—Bobbi Joo's moments—with her own husband and friends. Her statements would accurately convey the normal developmental experiences a pregnant woman would feel at precisely those times that she would, or should, have experienced them. That, of course, served to reinforce the illusion with her friends who had those same prenatal experiences, that Lisa was, indeed, pregnant. There would be no surprises—or suspicions—when she brought home a newborn baby.
But fate has a way of screwing up the best devised plans of even the best killers. And, as fate would have it, when Lisa Montgomery drove her red Toyota Corolla up to Bobbi Jo's small white home in rural Skidmore, a couple of Stinnett's neighbors noticed the car. And, at that very moment, as fate would have it, Bobbi Jo was talking to her mother, Becky Harper, on the telephone. "I gotta go," she reportedly told her mother. "...the woman I've been talking to online about buying a dog is at the door."
Stinnett was found, in a pool of blood, by her mother. Harper told reporters from Reuters that her daughter's stomach looked like it had exploded. It took nine hours to trigger the Amber Alert because before a statewide or nationwide alert can be approved, authorities must have a description of the missing child. Since only Bobbi Jo's killer had ever see Victoria Jo Stinnett, there was no description available other than it was a newborn baby who may or may not be alive.
Once the Amber Alert was issued, police in nearby Atchinson County, Missouri spotted a red Toyota Corolla matching the Amber Alert description. The driver of the vehicle, which very likely was Montgomery, switched off her headlines and lost the police on the rural back roads of northern Missouri. It appears that when Montgomery reached Topeka she feared being stopped. At that time, she called her husband, telling him that she had gone to Topeka to shop, went into labor and had the baby by herself. Kevin Montgomery and the couple's two children met her at a parking lot in Topeka and Kevin drove her home in his vehicle. It is unclear who drove her car back to Malvern, but when the FBI arrived on Friday morning, the Corolla was parked in the driveway of their home.
In the meantime, armed with two critical pieces of information, the FBI stepped into the case since it was obvious that a kidnapped baby had very likely been transported across a State line. Based on Harper's statement that her daughter had very likely identified her killer as "the woman she had been talking to online about a dog," the FBI used forensic scientists to retrieve the old e-mails from the hard drive of Stinnett's computer. That was the information led the FBI to Montgomery's doorstep.
In recent years, several women have
been murdered by attackers who then removed the unborn children from
the womb of the victim.
© 2004 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights Reserved
Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.
Today, Jon is an advertising executive with the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website. E-Mail: BAFFauthor@aol.com
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