Obstruction charges dropped in missing Woodstock woman case

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

WOODSTOCK – A judge threw out charges against a woman accused of lying to police as they investigated her friend’s disappearance.

Jennifer Wyatt-Paplham, 38, of Woodstock, was charged in March with two counts of obstructing justice related to Beth Bentley, who was last seen May 23, 2010.

Police have said Wyatt lied to them when she said she did not have contact with Bentley on or after May 25, 2010. They also said Wyatt lied when she said she dropped off Bentley at an Amtrak station in Centralia so that Bentley could take a train back to Chicago.

Wyatt’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Kim Messer, filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying that there was no actual crime alleged.

In his written ruling on Wednesday, McHenry County Judge Joseph Condon granted that request.

“Neither count of the bill of indictment alleges the defendant acted with the intent to either prevent the apprehension or obstruct the prosecution or defense of any person,” Condon said. “Strictly speaking, neither count states an offense.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs, who is also chief of the criminal division, said that he respected Condon’s decision.

He said he hasn’t decided yet whether to file new charges.

“I might,” Combs said.

Phone records indicate that Wyatt called Bentley’s number later than she initially told police and that contact was made “numerous times,” investigators said. One call lasted for at least five minutes, but it isn’t known whether Bentley herself answered the call.

Wyatt previously said that after a weekend trip to Mount Vernon, about 80 miles east of St. Louis, she dropped off Bentley across the street from an Amtrak station. Amtrak had no records of Bentley buying a ticket, and no one recalled seeing her in the vicinity.

Wyatt didn’t wait for Bentley to be picked up or to board the train, a fact that “haunts me every day,” she said a year after the disappearance.



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