Baby Andrew cold case: Woman arrested in 1981 death of baby in Sioux Falls – Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Baby Andrew cold case: Woman arrested in 1981 death of baby in Sioux Falls - Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Woman charged in 1981 death of newborn found in ditch

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota woman was charged Friday in the death of a newborn who was abandoned in a ditch 38 years ago, and police said they used DNA and genealogy sites to determine she was the babys mother.

Theresa Rose Bentaas was arrested and charged with murder and manslaughter in the 1981 death of the infant, known as Baby Andrew.

Officers said they tracked her down using an increasingly common investigative tactic: They took the boy’s DNA, tracked down a distant relative on a genealogy database from Parabon NanoLabs, and confirmed Bentaas’ link to the victim using a “trash pull” from her residence in order to obtain her DNA, according to The Argus Leader. Similar methods were used in cases like the 1992 murder of teacher Christy Mirack, and the ongoing charges against accused Golden State Killer Joseph James DeAngelo Jr.

Bentaas told authorities last month that she had hidden her pregnancy from her friends and family and gave birth while alone in her apartment, according to a court affidavit. Bentaas allegedly said she then drove the baby to the area he was later discovered, a cornfield ditch in Sioux Falls.

Now cops say they know who’s responsible for the decades-old cold case: The victim’s mother, Theresa Rose Bentaas, 57, was arrested Friday morning. Clerks at the Minnehaha County Court told Law&Crime she is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and first-degree manslaughter. There is no attorney of record, or scheduled court appearance at this time.

Bentaas, now 57, said she was young and stupid and felt sad and scared as she drove away, according to the document. The baby died of exposure.

Bentaas, who was 19 when the baby died, later married the infants father and has two living adult children with him, the Argus Leader reported.

The case has gripped Sioux Falls for decades. Roughly 50 people attended the childs funeral, held more than a week after he was discovered. Children left stuffed animals and a pin on his pajamas read: You are loved.

Retired Detective Mike Webb said authorities used DNA from the baby exhumed 10 years ago and DNA obtained from Bentaas through a search warrant. Webb said the father wont be charged because he wasnt involved.

“I sure would have adopted him rather than see him die like that,” said the man who found him, Lee Litz, in a 2017 interview with The Argus Leader.

I couldnt be more pleased with the results today and the arrest and the closure that we find, as well as the hard work and dedication for the pursuit of justice for Andrew, Chief Matt Burns said.

Public genealogy databases have been used in other recent cases, including the capture last April of the suspected Golden State Killer in northern California and the arrest of a businessman accused of fatally stabbing a Minneapolis woman in 1993.

In South Dakota, authorities submitted a DNA sample from Baby Andrew to Parabon NanoLabs, which found two possible matches using the public genealogical database GEDmatch. Police constructed a family tree and performed a trash pull to collect beer and water containers and cigarette butts at Bentaas home. Results from a cheek swab sample show theres extremely strong evidence to support a biological relationship between Bentaas and the child, according to the affidavit.

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