A South Dakota woman accused of leaving her newborn in a ditch almost 40 years ago has been charged with the infant’s death, police say.
ABC 8 reports that authorities used genealogy sites and DNA testing and determined the mother’s infant was Theresa Rose Bentaas. The infant, nicknamed Baby Andrew, was found deceased in a ditch in 1981.
When questioned, Bentaas reportedly told detectives that at the time, she hid the pregnancy from her family and friends and later gave birth in her apartment. She then reportedly drove the infant to Sioux Falls, where she dumped him in a corn field. The 57-year-old said she was “young and stupid” at the time, according to the arrest affidavit. She was 19 when she gave birth.
According to The Argus Leader, Baby Andrew was alive when Bentaas left him in the ditch, then “slowly succumbed to exposure” and passed away. Bentaas also admitted she saw news coverage about her baby, but told authorities she “was in denial that she was the one responsible for that.”
Bentaas later married the father of the baby and pair now have two adult children. The father has not been charged in the incident and claimed he had no idea Bentaas was pregnant at the time.
“I think his voice was heard,” retired detective Mike Webb said.
Webb reopened the case in 2009 and had the baby’s body exhumed. The infant’s remains were sent to the North Texas University Science Center to extract DNA from his bones. The test results didn’t match anyone in the database, but Webb didn’t give up. He contacted private genealogy company, Parabon Nanolabs Inc. The company found matches that eventually led to Webb.
Detective Patrick Mertes pulled beer and water bottles from Bentaas’ trash to extract DNA for evidence, which were tested at the South Dakota Forensic Lab.
Bentaas is charged with charged with murder and manslaughter and remains behind bars on $250,000 bond.