Simplified: An infant – later named "Baby Andrew John Doe" – was found dead on the side of a Sioux Falls road on a February morning in 1981. The case went cold for decades. Now, the woman charged in with the baby's death is scheduled to change her initial "not guilty" plea and face sentencing by the end of the year, per court schedules.
Why it matters
- Police arrested Theresa Rose Bentaas in March 2019 after connecting her to Baby Andrew using a tool to connect people through DNA and genealogy.
- They found Bentaas's DNA – a match to the baby's – on a water bottle, beer can and cigarette butts taken from a trash can outside her home during a "trash pull" a month before her arrest. The DNA match was later confirmed with further testing after Bentaas was interviewed by police, per court documents.
- The case was scheduled to go to a jury trial on several different occasions, most recently in April, but each time was postponed or canceled. Now, it appears a jury won't weigh in on Bentaas's case.
- Prosecuting attorneys in the Minnehaha County State's Attorney's Office declined to comment on the case. Bentaas's defense attorneys also could not be reached for comment.
What does a change of plea hearing entail?
A change of plea hearing often goes hand-in-hand with a plea deal, meaning that some agreement has been reached between the state and the defendant – Bentaas, in this case.
- Her initial plea was "not guilty" on counts of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.
In exchange for a guilty plea, the defendant often avoids a lengthy jury trial and the risk of a longer prison sentence, though it's up to the judge to determine sentencing.
What happens next?
Bentaas's change of plea hearing is scheduled for Oct. 8. A sentencing hearing is set to follow on Dec. 2.