40-year-old Sioux Falls cold case ends with a guilty plea

Cold Cases

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A Sioux Falls woman has pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of her baby. Teresa Bentaas changed her plea in court this morning. In exchange, the state dropped first and second-degree murder charges.

Bentaas left court accompanied by one of her lawyers. She pleaded guilty under what is called an Alford plea. It allows a defendant to maintain her innocence while authorizing the court to enter a guilty plea.

Bentaas was charged in the death of a newborn baby, known as Baby Andrew. The infant’s body was discovered in a ditch next to a cornfield, along Sycamore Avenue in February of 1981.

Bentaas was later connected to the case through DNA evidence and arrested in 2019.

During the hearing Judge Bradley Zell talked about the 1981 autopsy results, he pointed out that the results indicated the baby died from respiratory failure due to inattention after birth, and not necessarily exposure, which was pointed to as a possibility in the report.

On several occasions during the hearing the judge talked directly to Bentaas at one point asking, “Did you give birth to the child?” She answered, “I did.”

He also asked Bentaas if she understood, that even with the plea deal, the court still has the discretion to sentence her to life in prison. She is being charged and sentenced under the laws that were in place in 1981. Bentaas is scheduled to be sentenced for first degree manslaughter on December 2nd.

When she was interviewed by police in 2019, she told investigators she was quote “young and stupid” and scared.

Bentaas was a teenager when she hid her pregnancy and had the baby in 1981.

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