Parole for South Dakota Woman Convicted in 1981 Baby Death
A South Dakota woman who had been convicted in the 1981 death of her infant son is out of prison after two months.
The Associated Press is reporting that 60-year-old Theresa Bentaas has been granted parole by the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles.
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Bentaas entered a plea in October 2021 to first-degree manslaughter maintaining her innocence, 40 years after the body of her infant son was found dead in a ditch in a rural part of Sioux Falls.
The case remained unsolved until 2019 when DNA testing led investigators to Bentaas.
As part of that plea, South Dakota Circuit Judge Bradley Zell sentenced Bentaas to 10 years in prison, with nine years suspended, and the possibility of parole after two months.
During sentencing, the judge said it was unclear whether the infant died from complications during birth or abandonment during a South Dakota winter.
An autopsy revealed that the boy likely died from exposure and failure to assist in maintaining an airway during his birth.
The board initially deadlocked 4-4 on the motion to grant Bentaas parole but granted her release on a second vote.
Bentaas served a total of 73 days in jail before her trial and is expected to leave prison in the next few weeks after the conditions of parole are finalized.
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