SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A 40-year-old cold case murder investigation in KELOLAND is now closed. Friday in court, 59-year-old Teresa Bentaas of Sioux Falls pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of her infant son, who became known only as ‘Baby Andrew.’
Bentaas pleaded guilty under what is known as an Alford plea which allows her to maintain her innocence while authorizing the court to enter a guilty plea.
In exchange, the state dropped first and second-degree murder charges.
The investigation into Baby Andrew’s death began on February 28th, 1981 – when someone discovered his tiny body wrapped in a blanket on the edge of a farm field along Sycamore Avenue. Police say the newborn died of exposure.
At the time, people in the community came together to give him a funeral.
Investigators followed up on leads for years, but they could never find baby Andrew’s family until turning to DNA evidence. Detectives sent DNA samples taken from Baby Andrew to an out-of-state laboratory in 2009.
It allowed investigators to compare those samples with a South Dakota database from genealogy.
Detectives were then able to build a family tree through a private lab and found Baby Andrew’s mother, Teresa Bentaas.
Bentaas, who lived less than a mile from the spot where baby Andrew died, was arrested in March of 2019 after 38 years.
In an interview with police, Bentaas said she was “young and stupid.” When she drove away from the ditch on that day in 1981, she told investigators she was “sad, scared, and ran away from it and was not smart.”
Bentaas will be sentenced on December 2nd. She faces the possibility of life in prison.