SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A Sioux Falls woman will be sentenced for first degree manslaughter tomorrow in a 40-year-old cold case. Theresa Bentaas admitted that she gave birth to a baby boy in her apartment in 1981 and abandoned the baby in a ditch on the outskirts of the city.
It all began when a man found the remains of a baby along what is now a busy Sycamore Avenue in Sioux Falls. While police looked for the mother, Sioux Falls mourned the death of baby Andrew as dozens of people attended his funeral. Some trying to understand the mystery mother.
“But I wonder what we can do to a person in this woman’s state of mind that she hasn’t already done to herself,” said a woman who attended the funeral.
Police combed the scene for clues and tried to find the mother.
“We are going to do some detailed tests on the blood of the infant,” said a police investigator in 1981.
At the time science could reveal only so much. With few clues, the investigation stalled, and the death of baby Andrew became a cold case.
But in 2009 a Sioux Falls detective started looking into the case once again.
Detective Michael Webb knew that DNA technology had come a long way since 1981. Baby Andrew’s body was exhumed, and a DNA sample was collected.
“DNA coupled with genealogy was solving a lot of major cases around the country.”
Eventually new testing pointed to a Sioux Falls mother. In 2019, when confronted by police, Theresa Bentaas admitted that she hid her pregnancy from her family and had given birth and left the baby.
She told investigators she was scared and ran away from it and was not smart.
She also called herself “young and stupid”
At first, she pleaded not guilty, but later changed her plea. In exchange, the state dropped first and second-degree murder charges. 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.
Even with the deal, Bentaas faces up to life in prison for first degree manslaughter when she is sentenced Thursday morning.