State authorities said on Tuesday that they’ve positively identified the body of a missing Illinois woman who vanished during a baffling weekend trek with a friend in 2010.
The remains, initially discovered in December 2017, were identified as belonging to Bendetta “Beth” Bentley, who disappeared nearly a decade ago, Illinois State Police said in a press release this week.
The remains were “severely burned,” the Northwest Herald reported at the time of the discovery.
On May 23, 2010, Bentley’s friend Jennifer Wyatt dropped her off at a train station in Centralia, Illinois. She was supposedly traveling back to her home in Woodstock. However, she never made it home, and for years, the woman’s disappearance has mystified law enforcement.
“Information was developed which led the [Illinois State Police] to a rural location in Jefferson County where suspected human remains were recovered at the location,” police said in a press release.
It's unclear what “information” led detectives to the isolated stretch of Illinois where the woman’s charred remains were discovered. Her body was found near the intersection of Saddle Club and Miller Lake roads in Jefferson County, according to KTVI.
“We’re not releasing any information,” a spokesperson for the Illinois State Police told Oxygen.com on Wednesday.
“It’s exciting, it’s long overdue,” Bambi Pickard, 59, who co-curates a Facebook page that provides updates on Bentley’s case, told Oxygen.com. She founded the page with a family friend who lived across the street from the Bentleys.
Pickard, who now lives in Springfield, Missouri, described the woman’s disappearance as having “a lot of twists.”
“It’s something we’ve been waiting for a long time,” she added. “We never gave up hope. We always believed she would be found. I never dreamed it would be this long, though.”
Pickard said Bentley was a “friendly,” “generous,” and “giving” person, who would “do anything to help out a stranger.”
She expects the discovery will bring some closure to the family after all these years.
“It’s been very hard on them,” Pickard said. “I’m very hopeful that this will bring some justice for the family, and the friends, and all the people who have worked hard to keep Beth out there in the public eye."
Bentley’s husband requested a judge to officially declare his wife dead in December 2017, the Northwest Herald reported.
“We’re trying to be as normal as possible,” the woman’s husband, Scott Bentley, told the Northwest Herald following his wife’s disappearance.
“Life doesn’t stop,” he added. “We’ve got bills to pay, you’ve got to do your homework, go to school… You have to just do those things. We’ve been able to make it through.”
The case has flummoxed the woman’s family and authorities, who believe the missing woman lied to her husband about her whereabouts the weekend she vanished, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Bentley’s husband described his wife’s disappearance as “strange” and bizarre” in an interview with the Northwest Herald.
“That’s why we all think that, unfortunately, that she didn’t leave voluntarily,” Scott Bentley said. “She has three children, including one young one that’s 10,” he added. “And first of all, if you have no money, no credit cards that are being used, no phone, it just doesn’t seem that you would miss birthdays, graduations, sporting events, Christmas. I just don’t think that you would disappear like that.”
Her husband was under the impression that Bentley was visiting Wisconsin with Jenn Wyatt, her friend and co-worker. However, the pair instead traveled to Mount Vernon, Illinois where they relaxed at a lake with Wyatt's boyfriend, the newspaper reported.
Wyatt, who supposedly dropped Bentley off at an Illinois Amtrak station before she went missing, was previously questioned by police, who at times have doubted her story, according to the Northwest Herald.
“They told me not to say anything right now,” Wyatt told the Northwest Herald when the newspaper contacted her in 2017.
Pickard, the Missouri woman advocating for justice for Bentley, dismissed Wyatt’s account as a “totally made up story.”
There are currently no official suspects in Bentley’s death. She was 41 at the time of her disappearance.
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