Remains found nearly two years ago in rural Jefferson County have been identified as those of Benedetta “Beth” Bentley, a Woodstock mother of three missing since 2010.
Illinois State Police announced the positive identification in a news release Tuesday and said they would provide no further information. Until then, investigators had been mum about the status of the investigation, only stating that burned remains discovered Dec. 4, 2017, potentially were linked to 41-year-old Bentley.
Officers have not said where specifically the remains were found, but described the area as a rural part of Jefferson County. At the time of her May 2010 disappearance, Bentley reportedly traveled by car with her friend, Jennifer Wyatt-Paplham, to the southern Illinois town of Mount Vernon. The women planned to visit Wyatt-Paplham’s boyfriend, who was rehabbing a house in the area, Bentley’s husband, Scott Bentley said at the time.
In an email Tuesday morning, Scott Bentley declined to speak about the discovery of his wife’s remains.
“Due to the ongoing investigation, I am not at liberty to comment at this time,” he said.
At the time Beth Bentley’s missing persons report was filed, officers and police dogs searched the house where she last was said to have been staying, and flyers seeking information about her whereabouts were distributed throughout McHenry County, Chicago, Las Vegas, Arizona and California, according to probate court records.
Years passed, and those who knew Beth Bentley pressed for answers on blogs and missing persons Facebook groups, but little developed until police made their 2017 discovery. In the time that she had been missing, Beth Bentley missed her father’s funeral, the birth of her brother’s children and the birth of her first grandson, records show.
Most recently, new information led state police to a rural location in Jefferson County, where burned human remains were recovered Dec. 4, 2017. Later that month, a McHenry County judge granted Bentley’s husband’s request to have his wife presumed dead.
After police recovered the remains, a forensic anthropology team in Indiana tried to extract DNA for more than a year before an identification was made. The remains had not yet made their way back to Illinois as of Tuesday morning, Jefferson County Coroner Roger Hayes said.
“Eventually, I think the plan would be to return them to the family, but for now we’re going to hold them until the case can be reviewed,” Hayes said.
Police have directed additional questions to the Jefferson County State’s Attorney’s Office, which is reviewing the case, a representative from Illinois State Police Department confirmed. Jefferson County State’s Attorney Sean Featherstun could not be reached Tuesday to comment on whether charges might be forthcoming.
The Woodstock Police Department has played a “supportive” role in the investigation, being led by the Illinois State Police Department, Woodstock Police Chief Jon Lieb said.
“Hopefully this begins the process of bringing closure to the family as well as to the Woodstock community on the disappearance of Beth,” Lieb said.
Beth Bentley who was reported May 23, 2010, when she was expected to return from the weekend trip to Mount Vernon with her friend, Wyatt-Paplham. The friend initially told police she dropped off Beth Bentley at an Amtrak station in Centralia and that Beth Bentley was expected to take a train back to her Woodstock home. She never returned.
Police and prosecutors questioned Wyatt-Paplham’s account of Bentley’s disappearance, and in March 2012, Wyatt-Paplham was charged with obstructing justice in relation to her friend’s disappearance. A judge tossed out the charges later that year, and no new charges have been filed in connection with Beth Bentley’s death since.