My Baby Sister Lisa Did a Terrible Thing. We Shouldn't Kill Her For It.

Lisa Montgomery strangled a pregnant woman to death. Her sister, Diane, wants her off death row.

11/28/2020 3:50:00 AM

'It’s impossible not to feel an overwhelming sense of guilt that maybe, just maybe, if I’d spoken up all those years ago, Bobbie Jo Stinnett would still be alive—and my baby sister wouldn’t be on death row.'

Lisa Montgomery strangled a pregnant woman to death. Her sister, Diane, wants her off death row.

.Below, Montgomery’s 57-year-oldhalf-sisterDiane Mattingly opens up to about her sister's tragic past—and why she thinks sparing her life can"break the chain of evil actions."Mattingly'saccount of the abuse she and Montgomery both endured growing up was part of her testimony in court in support of Montgomery's unsuccessful motion to vacate the death sentence.

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It was a drizzly morning in Ogden, Kansas. I was eight years old, living in a trailer park with my abusive step-mom Judy who, after screaming on the phone for what seemed like an hour, was now squatting down in front of me. “Well,” she hissed in my face, “they’re coming to take you away, hope you’re happy.”

I was. In fact, I’d never been happier. But when two child protective services workers knocked on our front door later that day, my heart sank to my stomach. I was finally going into foster care, but Lisa, my little sister and best friend, was staying behind. She was four years younger than me, with wispy hair, and a sweet demeanor. When I turned back to take one last look of her, there was terror in her bright green eyes.

That was 1969. I didn’t see Lisa again until 2007, when I testified at her sentencing hearing for brutally murdering a pregnant woman named Bobbie Jo Stinnett; she cut the baby out of Stinnett’s belly with a knife. On the stand, Lisa looked just as scared as the day I left her 36 years ago.

My sister has been sentenced to die for her crime. If executed, she will become the first woman to be federally executed in the U.S. in 70 years. I will always love her, but what she did was the most awful thing a person can do. Lisa should spend the rest of her life in prison, no doubt, but she shouldn’t have to die. Because maybe if she hadn’t been failed by the people she needed most in society, she could have been part of it.

Diane, age 8. COURTESY OF ATTORNEYS FOR LISA MONTGOMERYLisa, age unknown. Courtesy of Attorneys for Lisa MontgomeryMy whole life changed the day Lisa came home from the hospital. She was itty-bitty and so beautiful. Judy had her all wrapped up in a pink bundle, and when I squeezed her hand she looked at me and smiled. I fell in love immediately.

My dad, who was in the military, wasn’t around much, so I helped Judy take care of Lisa. When she outgrew her crib, she moved into my room. Our twin beds were so close they practically touched, and most nights we fell asleep holding hands. Judy didn’t allow much music or television in our home, but we did have one tea set for playing “house.” It was always me as the mom, and Lisa as the daughter.

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Diane, here as a little girl, says her"sole purpose in life" became to protect her baby sister.Courtesy Diane MattinglyAs we got older, Judy became abusive, hitting us with brooms and belts and whatever else she got her hands on. I stepped in to take the brunt of it. She would poke her finger into my chest over and over in the same spot until it bruised. She forced me to eat raw onions until I cried. She would beat us and scream.

Worse than that was Judy’s ability to find out what hurt you most and use it against you. For me, it was a fear of abandonment. When I was six, Judy ordered me to strip down naked, leave the house, and never come back. I waited outside in the freezing cold, before she finally opened the door to let me back in. I can’t tell you if it was 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or 30 minutes, but I was out there alone, and so scared.

Protecting Lisa became my sole purpose in life. I shielded her from the random babysitters, often older men, Judy left us with for her near-nightly outings to the bar. When one of them came into our bedroom and raped me, I prayed Lisa would be safe from him.

Periodically, Judy would drop me off at a friends house for a few weeks. When I turned seven, I stayed with another family for nine months. The day I came back, Lisa ran to me with open arms like I had just returned home from war. She had endured unimaginable abuses in my absence. When child protective services picked me up six months later, she would suffer even worse.

I vomited violently the entire hour-long car ride to my foster home in Salina. My new family wasn’t rich by any means, but they had a beautiful home with lots of books, toys, puzzles, and games. My room had pink walls adorned with landscape paintings. The sheets on my bed were floral print. The first thing I did was put a framed photo of Lisa on my nightstand.

I’ve always considered myself bruised, but not broken.Zella, my new mother, had a beautiful warmth to her. Her husband, Floyd, a schoolteacher, instilled in me the importance of getting a good education. They had three children who treated me like I’d always been their sister. We played together and chased each other around, and, on occasion, fought like siblings do. I grew to love reading, devouring mystery novels on weekends. On my first Christmas with them, Zella and Floyd bought me a pink Barbie van. I rode that thing all around the neighborhood.

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I’ve always considered myself bruised, but not broken. I still can’t eat onions, or be in small spaces with men. But I have self-worth, and that’s because of certain people, like Zella and Floyd. For the first time in my life, I was happy. But I also had a big secret. I thought if my new family knew how damaged I was—if they found out I’d been beaten and raped—they wouldn’t want me anymore. So I decided not to tell them; to this day, it’s my biggest regret in life.

If I did speak up, maybe Zella and Floyd would have gone back for Lisa. Maybe she could have been saved, too. Instead, she suffered a lifetime of mental, physical, and sexual abuse—and it wasn’t just during her childhood. She was abused as a teenager and well into her adult life, too.

Read more: ELLE Magazine (US) »

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Just wow! I believe although she was mentally ill, she was rounded enough to plan and commit murder and gut her for a premature baby that didn’t ask for any of this nor did her mother. Smh.