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Lisa Montgomery Will Be The Third Kansan Put To Death In A Federal Execution This Year

Montgomery is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at the U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute, Indiana, on Dec. 8.

Earlier this year, Wesley Ira Purkey and Keith Dwayne Nelson were put to death by the federal government.

The scheduled execution of Lisa Montgomery, who was convicted in 2008 of killing a pregnant woman and cutting the baby from her womb, will mark the third time a Kansan has been put to death this year since the resumption of federal executions in July.

All told, 14 prisoners have been executed in the United States this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Seven have been carried out by the federal government and the remainder by five states, including Missouri’s execution of Walter Barton on May 19.

Wesley Ira Purkey of Lansing, Kansas, was executed by lethal injection on July 16 for abducting 16-year-old Jennifer Long in 1998 as she was walking home from East High School in Kansas City and then raping and murdering her. He was also convicted in Wyandotte County of bludgeoning to death 80-year-old Mary Ruth Bales of Kansas City, Kansas, with a claw hammer.

And Kansas resident Keith Dwayne Nelson was executed by lethal injection on Aug. 28 for abducting 10-year-old Pamela Butler in 1999 as she was rollerblading in front of her Kansas City, Kansas, home and then raping and murdering her. He dumped her body in a wooded area near a Missouri church in Grain Valley, Missouri.

The Justice Department announced Friday that it had set a Dec. 8 execution date for Montgomery. It will be the first federal execution of a woman since Bonnie Brown Heady was put to death in the Missouri gas chamber in 1953 for the kidnapping and murder of 6-year-old Bobby Greenlease Jr., the son of a wealthy Kansas City automobile dealer.

Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, only three federal executions had taken place before the Trump administration ordered the resumption of executions last year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. One of them was of Timothy McVeigh, who was put to death for his role in the 1995 terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people.

Montgomery’s crime, because of its grisly nature, drew national headlines. In December 2004, she drove to the northwestern Missouri home of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was 23-years-old and eight months pregnant, supposedly to buy a puppy from her. Instead, Montgomery strangled Stinnett to death and cut the baby from her abdomen. Montgomery, who was 36 at the time, had told family and friends she was pregnant.

In a statement Sunday, Montgomery’s attorney, Kelley Henry, an assistant public defender in Tennessee, said Montgomery had endured trauma as a young child and was in the grip of mental illness when she committed the crime.

“Few human beings have lived through the kind of torture and trauma that was inflicted on Lisa Montgomery by her mentally ill, alcoholic mother,” Henry said. “From a young age, Lisa was sexually trafficked, told she had to ‘earn her keep,’ and repeatedly gang raped by adult men. The abuses Lisa endured exacerbated a genetic predisposition to mental illness inherited from both sides of her family. She suffers from complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and to this day must maintain a complex regimen of anti-psychotic medications to control her episodic psychosis.”

Montgomery is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana — the same facility where Purkey and Nelson were executed.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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