SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A Sioux Falls man who discovered a dead infant in a ditch 38 years ago said following the arrest of the child’s biological mother that he still mourns the loss of a child he wishes he had found alive.
Lee Litz told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that he cried tears of relief when he learned Theresa Bentaas, 57, had been charged with murder and manslaughter in the killing of the child known as Baby Andrew.
Litz found the boy’s body wrapped in a blanket in a cornfield ditch in February 1981.
Litz said his family and the 50 strangers who attended the infant’s funeral are the boy’s true family, even though they didn’t know him or his parents. Litz said his wife was pregnant when he discovered the baby and he was already a father, so he couldn’t comprehend why someone would leave their child to die.
“It was a human life. He never got the chance to live,” Litz said. “There are times when I wish I hadn’t found him and there are times that I’m glad I did. I just wish I found him earlier, when he was still alive.”
His 37-year-old daughter, Crystal Litz-Oestreich, said she and her family hope for justice for the child whose body was found just months before she was born.
“Bentaas threw him away like trash,” Litz-Oestreich said.
Sioux Falls Police used DNA to determine Bentaas was the biological mother and arrested her Friday.
Bentaas’ attorney, Raleigh Hansman, declined to comment Monday afternoon. She argued at a bond hearing earlier Monday that Bentaas should be released on her own recognizance, arguing that she is a lifelong Sioux Falls resident with no criminal history and “not a danger to this community.” Judge Pat Schroeder granted prosecutors’ request for $250,000 cash-only bond.
Bentaas told authorities last month that she concealed her pregnancy from her friends and family and gave birth alone in her apartment, according to an affidavit. Bentaas said she drove the infant to the area where he was later discovered and left him there to die.
Bentaas said she was “young and stupid” and felt sad and scared as she drove away, according to the court document.
Litz said that’s no excuse.
“What she did 38 years ago was wrong. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been,” Litz said. “As far as her, I don’t have any sympathy for her.”