A federal judge has deferred the scheduled execution of the only woman on the country's death row amid a scuffle over a stay of execution.

According to an ABC News report, Lisa Montgomery, 52, was sentenced for killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in Missouri in December 2004.

The Department of Justice said Montgomery strangled Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant at the time. She then used a kitchen knife to cut the baby girl from the victim's womb.

The suspect kidnapped the baby and tried to pass the girl off as her own. She was convicted of federal kidnapping resulting in death in October 2007 and was sentenced to be executed.

Montgomery's execution date was initially set on Dec. 8 this year, as per the court documents. But last November, U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss allowed a stay-of-execution order after Montgomery's lawyers contracted COVID-19.

Apart from allowing the suspect's lawyers to recover from COVID-19, it will also enable the lawyers to prepare Montgomery's petition to receive executive clemency from President Donald Trump.

After the judge's order, the Justice Department rescheduled her execution for Jan. 12 next year.

Montgomery is currently being held in a federal prison in Texas. However, she was set to be put to death at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

Related story: After Teen Was Murdered, Mother Stalks Escaped Killers Across Mexico to Bring Her Daughter to Justice

On Thursday, Moss ruled that the Bureau of Prisons acted illegally in scheduling Montgomery's execution date.

The judge said the new execution date may not be scheduled while the stay-of-execution is still in effect until Jan. 1. 

A Justice Department spokesperson, which supervises the Bureau of Prison, has yet to issue any comment.

"The district court's decision requires the government to follow the law by not setting an execution date for Lisa Montgomery while a stay of execution is in place," Sandra Babock, an attorney for Montgomery, said in a report.

Montgomery's Case

Experts are still studying the case to understand what triggered that kind of crime and hopefully prevent it in the future.

Dr. Ann Burgess, a professor at Boston College, said it is such a horrific act to do, and it takes a lot of planning.

According to a The Straits Times report, Burgess studied the rare phenomenon of fetal abduction since the 1990s.

Meanwhile, Dr. John Rabun said the crime has been more visible in the last 15 to 20 years. Rabun is a senior consultant on infant abductions to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

Montgomery was 36 years old at the time, and she had four children. She had undergone a procedure years before that made pregnancy impossible, and it was not known to people close to her.

Prosecutors said the suspect carefully picked her victim online, who is the dog breeder, Stinnett. She went on to disguise buying a puppy, and she strangled Stinnett to death.

Montgomery then crossed state lines with the child and told her unknowing husband, who expected that she was pregnant, that the baby was hers.

The Justice Department described the crimes as heinous. Montgomery lawyers' argued that their client suffers from serious mental illnesses. 

Related story: Murder Files: 4 Most Notorious Serial Killers in South American History