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After 38 Years, an Arrest in Death of Newborn Left in Field

Detectives follow DNA trail to woman who says she was 'young and stupid'
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2019 11:48 AM CDT
Theresa Rose Bentaas is charged in the death of a newborn left to die in 1981.   (Minnehaha County Jail via KELO via AP)

(Newser) – A community's 38-year quest for "justice for Andrew," a newborn who was left in a South Dakota cornfield to die, has led to an arrest. Police say DNA tests show Theresa Rose Bentaas, 57, was the infant's mother, the Argus Leader reports. She now faces murder and manslaughter charges. Sioux Falls police exhumed the child's body a decade ago to obtain DNA samples. No matches were found in a state database, but a private genealogy company had more luck, which helped detectives to build a family tree that led them to Bentaas. The affadavit says she told police she was "young and stupid" at the time. She hid the pregnancy, she said, gave birth alone at home, then drove to the cornfield. Police said the infant "slowly succumbed to exposure." Bentaas and the child's father, who is not charged in the case, have two adult children.

Sioux Falls residents came together to give Andrew, as newspapers at the time called him, a funeral in March 1981. About 50 people attended the funeral, and children left stuffed animals at the casket. A church, lawyer, funeral home, and cemetery donated their services, per KELO. Among the mourners was Lee Litz, who found the child's body. He was driving by with friends when he spotted a blanket in the field. "It's just like fresh in my mind yet," he told KSFY, "like it happened yesterday." Litz still visits the cemetery. He's glad an arrest has been made, but he's still troubled that he didn't find the child sooner. "He needed somebody," Litz said. (Read more cold cases stories.)

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