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Couple proudly showed ‘their’ baby

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Undated photo of Lisa Montgomery, who is accused of murder.

Undated photo of Lisa Montgomery, who is accused of murder.

Associated Press

MELVERN, Kan. — A woman charged with killing an expectant mother and cutting the baby from her womb was showing the child off to people at a cafe and to her pastor hours before she was arrested, residents said Saturday.

Lisa M. Montgomery, 36, was charged with kidnapping resulting in murder and was expected to appear in federal court Monday. The baby, whose mother had been eight months pregnant, was in good condition.

Hours before her arrest, Montgomery and her husband showed off a newborn girl at a restaurant, said Kathy Sage, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe.

Many customers were surprised to hear the infant was only a day old, Sage said. She knew an Amber Alert had been issued for a baby missing from Missouri but did not realize the Montgomerys' infant was connected until hearing from a reporter on Friday.

"You read about this stuff," she said. "It blows you away when it's here. This stuff is supposed to be in New York City or Los Angeles."

Montgomery was arrested later in the death of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was found Thursday in a pool of blood inside her small white home in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore.

Montgomery's husband, Kevin, has not been charged.

Authorities said Montgomery contacted Stinnett through an online message board, and investigators zeroed in on her using computer forensics. Montgomery was seeking to buy a dog from Stinnett, who raised rat terriers.

While the couple ate breakfast, another customer showed the baby off around the cafe. After eating, they took the girl to visit their pastor.

"It was a beautiful baby," Mike Wheatley said. "Absolutely beautiful."

The pastor had not seen the couple since October, and everyone in the congregation was expecting her to give birth around Dec. 12.

Jeff Lanza, an FBI spokesman in Kansas City, Mo., declined to discuss motives and said the investigation is ongoing.

He would say only that Montgomery was being held in Kansas and is expected to make her first appearance in federal court Monday, though authorities do not know whether it will be in Missouri or Kansas.

The baby girl, named Victoria Jo, was in good condition Saturday. Several family members, including her father, had been reunited with her at a hospital late Friday.

The infant was in good condition Saturday in an intensive care unit. Hospital officials said she was responding normally for a baby taken from the womb one month premature.

"She's doing well," said Carol Wheeler, a spokeswoman for Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center.

The child's father, Zeb Stinnett, issued a brief statement calling the child "a miracle."

"I want to thank family, friends, Amber Alert and law enforcement officials for their support during this time," he said.

U.S. Attorney Todd Graves said Montgomery contacted Stinnett through an online message board after seeing a Web site about rat terriers that Stinnett bred and raised. The site included a picture of Stinnett, showing she was pregnant.

Montgomery is the mother of two high school-age children, but Graves said she had been pregnant with another child that was never born. It was unclear when she lost the baby or under what circumstances, but the complaint said she had lied to her husband about giving birth.

According to court documents, Montgomery traveled to Topeka on Thursday to go shopping. She called her husband from there, saying she had gone into labor and given birth.

Kevin Montgomery and the couple's two children met Lisa and the newborn in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant in Topeka and drove home, according to an affidavit.

The arrest stunned many townspeople who apparently had believed for months that Lisa Montgomery was pregnant.

How "could you not know that your wife's not pregnant?" said Gary Deskins, owner of a convenience store in Malvern, a community of about 420 residents about 30 miles south of Topeka. "There's something missing."

Contributing: Margaret Stafford, John Hanna.