A South Dakota woman was convicted Friday for the death of her newborn son, according to court documents, ending a cold case that began four decades ago with the boy’s body found near a corn field .
Theresa Bentas, a 60-year-old woman from Sioux Falls, entered an Alford plea that allows the defendants to maintain their innocence, as well as for first-degree murder in an agreement with prosecutors, in which she pleaded guilty to two murder charges. rejected. At the Second Judicial Court in South Dakota.
Ms Bentas had previously pleaded not guilty to the three charges.
Ms Bentas’ lawyers declined to comment on Monday. The Minnehaha County state attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
The charges against Ms Bentas drew from the discovery of an infant’s body on February 28, 1981, when a driver near Sioux Falls saw a pile of “wine-colored” blankets on the side of the road, he said in an interview decades later. Local newspaper, The Argus Leader. The driver pulled back to see the blankets as they looked new, he said.
According to Ms. Bentas’ arrest affidavit, there was a dead child inside the bundle, and traces of blood were found on clothing nearby.
According to the affidavit, the autopsy found that the baby was born alive, possibly a day earlier, and probably died from exposure.
Investigators could not locate the child’s mother and relatives. After about 50 residents attended the child’s funeral at St. Michael’s Catholic Cemetery, matters cooled. The child became known as Andrew John Doe.
In 2009, as DNA analysis became widely accessible and spread to criminal investigations, detectives took up the Sioux Falls case and obtained a court order to exhume the body for testing. According to the affidavit, the remains were taken to the University of North Texas Health Science Center, where a DNA profile was obtained that said the child’s remains were reburied in 2010.
Through advanced DNA testing, a family tree was produced, leading investigators to a residence in Sioux Falls, where Ms Bentas was living, the affidavit said.
According to the affidavit, detectives found DNA in a trash can at her residence, and analysts determined that it “cannot be taken out” from the profile of the child’s biological mother.
In March 2019, the Sioux Falls Police Department announced that investigators had traced the child’s mother, naming Ms. Bentas, through DNA testing and genealogy databases. He was arrested for murder.
On February 27, 2019, Ms Bentas told investigators that she was “young and stupid” in 1981, according to the affidavit. She said she hid her pregnancy from family and friends, and gave birth alone in her apartment. The affidavit said that she took the child by road to the place where he was later found.
The affidavit said Ms Bentas recalled feeling “sad” and “afraid” and that she kept thinking about the night she left the spot.
According to court records, he is to be sentenced on December 2.
Susan Beachy contributed to the research.