Friend charged in case of woman who disappeared in Centralia, Ill.

BY NICHOLAS J.C. PISTOR • npistor@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8265 |

Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2012

CENTRALIA, Ill. • The cold case of a Northern Illinois woman who disappeared almost two years ago in Centralia was revived on Tuesday when police charged her best friend with obstructing justice.

Beth Bentley, a 41-year-old mother of three, was in Southern Illinois on a weekend jaunt with friend Jennifer Wyatt, who worked with Bentley at her husband’s law office. Wyatt was charged on Tuesday with two felony counts of obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to police.

Police said on Wednesday they are treating the case as if Bentley is still alive.

According to Wyatt, the two women left Woodstock, Ill., and headed by car to Mount Vernon, about 80 miles east of St. Louis. Police say cellphone and credit card records placed her there.

Wyatt said she dropped Bentley off across from the Amtrak station in downtown Centralia on May 23, 2010. Bentley said she would connect with her male friend from St. Louis and return to the Chicago area on her own, according to Wyatt.

Wyatt told police she never saw Bentley again and does not know the identity of the man. Police were unable to track her cellphone because it went dead. None of her bank accounts were used.

Woodstock police now say Wyatt spoke with Bentley two days later. Charging documents also alleged that Wyatt lied when she said she dropped Bentley off at the train station.

Police, who said they interviewed Wyatt on Monday, declined to discuss further specifics. The investigation is ongoing.

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