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A South Dakota woman was convicted of manslaughter Friday in the death of her newborn son whose body was discovered in a ditch 40 years ago.
Theresa Bentaas, 60, of Sioux Falls, entered an Alford plea to first-degree manslaughter in an agreement with prosecutors in which they dropped two murder charges, the Argus Leader reported. The Alford plea allows Bentaas to maintain her innocence while also authorizing the court to enter a guilty plea. Bentaas previously had pleaded not guilty to the three charges.
The newborn known as “Baby Andrew” was found wrapped in a blanket in a cornfield ditch in Sioux Falls in 1981. An autopsy determined he died of exposure.
Mike Webb, a Sioux Falls police detective who worked on the cold case, discovered all testable DNA evidence had been destroyed in 1995, according to court documents.
The infant’s body was exhumed in September 2009 after Webb learned that DNA could be extracted from bones and tissue. North Texas University Science Center conducted lab tests on the DNA that was extracted from the infant’s remains, but no matches were found.
Public genealogy databases have been used in other recent cases, including the capture last April of the suspected Golden State Killer in northern California and the arrest of a businessman accused of fatally stabbing a Minneapolis woman in 1993.
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