Crime & Courts

Police: Human remains possibly tied to Woodstock woman's 2010 disappearance

Beth Bentley disappeared in 2010

WOODSTOCK – State and local police are asking the public for information about the 2010 disappearance of a Woodstock woman after recently finding severely burned human remains in southern Illinois.

Benedetta “Beth” Bentley, then 41, of Woodstock disappeared May 23, 2010, after a weekend trip to Mount Vernon with a friend. Jennifer Wyatt-Paplham initially told police that she dropped off Bentley at an Amtrak station in Centralia. Bentley was supposed to be taking a train back to her Woodstock home, but she never returned, police said. Police and prosecutors have questioned Wyatt-Paplham’s account of Bentley’s disappearance.

Illinois State Police discovered severely burned human remains and other evidence in Jefferson County and are trying to identify the victim, police said.

“Information was developed, which led the ISP to a rural location in Jefferson County,” police said in a news release Thursday. “Suspected human remains and other evidence were recovered at the location. Investigators are attempting to positively identify the remains, which were badly burned.”

Woodstock and state police are investigating the disappearance of the mother of three.

Woodstock Deputy Police Chief Arthur Lanz referred questions to the state police. State police declined to comment on why they believe the remains may be related to Bentley’s disappearance.

“Because of the open status of this case, no additional information regarding the investigation is being released at this time,” state police said.

Anyone with information about Bentley or the incident is encouraged to contact state police at 618-542-2171 or Woodstock police at 815-338-2131.

Jefferson County is in southern Illinois, about an hour and a half east of St. Louis. Centralia is a city with a population of about 13,000. Most of the city is in Marion County, but parts reach into Clinton, Jefferson and Washington counties.

McHenry County prosecutors charged Wyatt-Paplham with obstruction of justice in 2012. Police said Wyatt-Paplham had lied to them when she said she did not have contact with Bentley on or after May 25, 2010. They also said Wyatt-Paplham lied when she said she dropped off Bentley at an Amtrak station in Centralia so that Bentley could take a train back to Chicago.

However, a judge later tossed out the case against Wyatt-Paplham. Amtrak had no records of Bentley buying a ticket or boarding the train, police and prosecutors previously said.

Phone records indicate that Wyatt-Paplham called Bentley’s cellphone later than she initially told police, and that contact was made “numerous times,” investigators have said.

One call lasted at least five minutes, but it is not known whether Bentley herself answered the call. Amtrak had no records of Bentley buying a ticket, and no one recalled seeing her in the vicinity.

Bentley’s husband, Scott, a local attorney, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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