Judge presumes missing Woodstock woman dead

Benedetta "Beth" Bentley's husband's request granted

WOODSTOCK – A McHenry County judge has granted a husband’s request to have his wife, missing woman Benedetta “Beth” Bentley, presumed dead.

More than seven years after Bentley’s disappearance, McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel issued an order Thursday presuming the woman’s death.

The judge’s decision grants Scott Bentley control over his wife’s estate. At the time of her disappearance, Beth Bentley did not have any assets or a will.

“Beth has disappeared and has been continuously absent for seven years from her home without explanation,” Chmiel wrote in his ruling. “Those persons with whom she would likely communicate have not heard anything from or about her. A diligent search has been made ... without obtaining information that she is alive.”

Despite unsuccessful attempts to find Beth Bentley throughout the years, the recent discovery of burned human remains in Jefferson County has piqued investigators’ interest in her disappearance.

Information led Illinois State Police to a rural area in Jefferson County on Dec. 4, according to a news release at the time. There, police found “badly burned” suspected human remains, which they are working to identify.

Illinois State Police were not available to comment Tuesday and previously declined to speak about why they believed the remains might be related to Beth Bentley’s disappearance.

During a Dec. 5 hearing on Scott Bentley’s request, he and three other witnesses testified – including a sergeant with the Woodstock Police Department, a co-worker and the Bentleys’ son.

Police documents related to the case have been sealed and are not available to the public. In a Nov. 28 motion, Assistant Attorney General Brian Janet wrote that allowing the records to get out “could result in any parties responsible for Ms. Bentley’s disappearance avoiding prosecution.”

The Bentleys were married Feb. 1, 2004, in Las Vegas. The couple lived and worked together in McHenry County, where they fostered a “loving marriage,” the ruling stated.

Beth Bentley, then 41, disappeared May 23, 2010, after a weekend trip to Mount Vernon with her friend, Jennifer Wyatt-Paplham.

Wyatt-Paplham was charged in March 2012 with obstructing justice related to Beth Bentley’s disappearance. A judge dismissed the charges later that year.

Evidence showed that before her trip, Beth Bentley misled her husband about where she was going, Chmiel wrote in his ruling.

Scott Bentley last saw his wife May 20, 2010, and last spoke with her on the phone May 24, 2010. Only then did Wyatt-Paplham tell Scott that she and Beth had gone to Mount Vernon, Chmiel wrote.

Wyatt-Paplham initially told police she dropped off Bentley at an Amtrak station in Centralia.

From there, Wyatt-Paplham told police that Beth Bentley was expected to take a train back to her Woodstock home, but she never returned, police said.

Scott Bentley and his attorney, Guy Youman, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call state police at 618-542-2171 or Woodstock police at 815-338-2131.

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