Bentley case still open, but sluggish three years later

WOODSTOCK – The occasional tip still rolls in three years to the day since Beth Bentley was last seen.

But so far, every lead has taken police to a dead end, and details in the case of the missing mother of three remain scarce.

“The case is still open. It is considered a cold case,” Woodstock Detective Sgt. Jeff Parsons said. “Anytime a lead comes in, no matter how insignificant it is, we chase it down to its end.”

Angela Montgomery, a close friend of Bentley’s who has fallen into a makeshift role of family spokeswoman, said she would like to see the investigation moved along to law enforcement agencies in southern Illinois where Bentley was last seen May 23, 2010.

Jenn Wyatt-Paplham has said repeatedly that she dropped her friend off across the street from a Centralia Amtrak station after a weekend trip to Mount Vernon, about 80 miles east of St. Louis.

Amtrak had no record of Bentley buying a ticket, and no one has come forward to say they saw her in the area that day.

“If there’s any evidence to be found, it’s going to be found in southern Illinois,” Montgomery said.

Woodstock Police Chief Robert Lowen said his staff is coordinating the investigation but has worked with several agencies in southern Illinois, as well as state police.

“In order to hand it off, they have to accept it,” he said.

In August, a judge tossed obstructing justice charges against Wyatt-Paplham after police said she lied to them about when and where she last had contact with Bentley.

Montgomery has long held the belief that despite reports Bentley had misled her husband and children about her whereabouts the weekend of her disappearance, she would never have left them willingly.

Montgomery said she believes her friend died of an accidental drug overdose and that her body was hidden.

“She did not intend to disappear,” she said. “She had every intention of coming home to her loving family.”

But police continue to hear from what Parsons called “our same core group of people” about the incident, and a blog and Facebook page dedicated to Bentley remain active.

Bentley’s two sons from a previous marriage, Jeremy and Josh Velmont, 24 and 21, remain hopeful that their mother is out there. Bentley also has a younger son, Cooper, with her husband, Scott Bentley, an attorney in McHenry.

“I’m not really sure what else can be done,” Jeremy Velmont said of police activity on the case. “They can’t work magic to find her.”