Theresa Bentaas: Woman convicted of the death of a newborn son in 1981 released from prison after three months

A South Dakta woman convicted last year in the death of her newborn son in 1981 was released from prison after less than three months.

Theresa Bentaas, 60, was sentenced to 10 years, nine of which were suspended by a judge, after pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter over the death of baby Andrew in December 2021.

She reported to jail Jan. 15 and was paroled March 17, and while she was not immediately released, the South Dakota Department of Justice has confirmed that she is now free.

Newborn baby “Andrew John Doe” was found wrapped in a blanket in a ditch in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on February 28, 1981 after the bundle was discovered by a motorist, but by the time officers got to the scene, that was it baby dead

An autopsy determined the newborn had likely died from the exposure and failure to help the baby maintain an airway during delivery.

An inquest into the baby’s death and an attempt to identify his parents went cold for almost four decades before the case was on hold.

Sioux Falls Police Department detective Mike Webb reopened the case to try to obtain DNA evidence for testing after learning that court documents said all previous testable evidence had been destroyed in 1995.

Baby Andrew’s body was exhumed in 2009 and sent to the North Texas University Science Center to extract DNA from bone and tissue, but no genetic matches were found.

The DNA samples were tested each year without finding a match, but with advances in technology in the field, they were submitted to Parabon NanoLabs, Inc. in 2019, who found two possible genetic matches.

Investigators used these matches to create a family tree that led to Theresa Bentaas and Dirk Bentaas, who both lived together in Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls police then confiscated a cigarette butt, beer and water container from the trash at her home, and the female DNA on the evidence “could not be ruled out that it came from baby Doe’s birth mother,” according to the court documents.

During a parole hearing in March, Bentaas, who was 19 when she gave birth, was asked by the board if her son was alive when she left his body outside.

“He didn’t move. He wasn’t breathing. He wasn’t alive,” she told them.

Her defense attorneys previously told the court that her client did not know she was pregnant until the baby was born and that he was not breathing after the birth.

The court heard medical records show she did not seek treatment for the pregnancy before giving birth.

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