South Dakota

Newborn’s body found abandoned in ditch

February 28, 1981
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
The body of a newborn boy is found in a ditch

The baby had been, found wrapped in a sheet and blanket, approximately 24 hours after his death which occurred roughly two hours after his birth. Medical examiners determined the baby, later named Baby Andrew John Doe, had died of exposure to cold temperatures and blood loss possibly from a rupture of his umbilical cord. His placenta was still attached.

The community immediately mourned Baby Andrew’s death, and a woman who wished to remain anonymous — to keep the focus on Baby Andrew — claimed his body, gave him his name, and made funeral arrangements. Others in the community donated the pajamas Baby Andrew was buried in, a gold pin which read “You are loved” fastened to his clothing, flowers, stuffed animals, and other mourning gifts.

Police attempted to locate Baby Andrew’s parents but found no leads despite the large amounts of publicity. Eventually, the case went cold. In 2016, Baby Andrew was exhumed to extract DNA with hopes of identifying the baby and/or his parents. Baby Andrew’s mother was identified through genetic analysis in 2019 as Theresa Bentaas, who was then arrested in March 2019. According to reports, Bentaas was in her late teens when she delivered Baby Andrew. She hid her pregnancy from the baby’s father (her eventual husband) and the rest of her family, and delivered the baby in secret before abandoning him in the ditch.

Bentaas’ trial is scheduled for April 2020.

Sources:
“Trial of Theresa Bentaas postponed until April.” Dakota News Now. September 3, 2019. Accessed: February 28, 2020. https://www.dakotanewsnow.com/content/news/Trial-of-Theresa-Bentaas-postponed-until-April-559259051.html
Ferguson, Danielle and Ellis, Jonathan. “Baby Andrew cold case: What we know about Theresa Bentaas.” Argus Leader. March 11, 2019. Accessed: February 28, 2020. https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/crime/2019/03/08/theresa-bentaas-sioux-falls-baby-andrew-cold-case-solved-south-dakota/3104876002/
Walker, Mark. “DNA test fails to find family in abandoned baby cold case.” Argus Leader. March 6, 2017. https://amp.argusleader.com/amp/98823976
Walker, Mark. “Cold case: Police hope DNA leads to parents of abandoned baby.” Argus Leader. January 16, 2016. https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2016/01/16/cold-case-police-hope-dna-leads-parents-abandoned-baby/78762376/
“People gather to bury child they never knew.” Rapid City Journal. March 9, 1981

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