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Woman pleads not guilty to fetus kidnapping

Federal judge sets trial to begin in March

Lisa Montgomery in a December 20, 2004, booking photograph.
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Bobbie Jo Stinnet is buried in Missouri.
Crime, Law and Justice

(CNN) -- The Kansas woman accused of strangling a pregnant acquaintance and cutting the 8-month-old fetus from her womb pleaded not guilty Thursday, and is to stand trial the week of March 14, federal prosecutors said.

Appearing before U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge John Maughmer in Kansas City, Missouri, Lisa Montgomery pleaded not guilty to the charge of kidnapping resulting in death, said Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office there.

A trial date has not been set, he said.

Montgomery, 36, was represented by two public defenders, and the judge indicated he may appoint a third because of the potential for a death sentence.

Ledford said prosecutors had not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

Montgomery, who waived her preliminary hearing in December, waived a reading of the grand jury indictment Thursday. The indictment was returned January 12.

Prosecutors say Montgomery strangled 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett on December 16 in Skidmore, Missouri, then cut the near-term fetus from the mother's womb and kidnapped the baby.

Montgomery, a mother of four, then allegedly passed off the baby as her own back in her Kansas hometown of Melvern. The FBI said Montgomery confessed to the crime. (Full story)

The baby, Victoria Jo Stinnett, was recovered December 17 and presented to her father.

Montgomery and Bobbie Jo Stinnett became acquainted through a community of rat terrier dog breeders. They met at least once, at a dog show in Abilene, Kansas, several months before Stinnett's death.

Authorities said Montgomery, using a fictitious name, contacted Stinnett through an online chat room and expressed interest in a rat terrier dog, the breed the Stinnetts bred and sold.

Montgomery allegedly obtained directions to Stinnett's home in Skidmore, Missouri, and visited her there December 16. Hours later, officials said, Stinnett's mother found her body. (Full story)

Montgomery is being held at a detention facility in Leavenworth, Kansas.

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