Family, friends remember missing woman 1 year after disappearance
By CHELSEA McDOUGALL
WOODSTOCK – A friend of a missing Woodstock wife and mother says she is done protecting the people who she thinks know something about what happened to Beth Bentley the weekend she disappeared.
Monday marks one year since Bentley last was seen. Her family and friends will host a balloon release in her honor at 3 p.m. today at Emricson Park at the top of the sled hill in Woodstock.
Angela Montgomery thinks that Bentley’s friend Jenn Wyatt has the keys to the case that has stymied police and frustrated family members. Montgomery does not believe Wyatt’s account of her last moments with Bentley.
Wyatt repeatedly has said she dropped Bentley off at a Centralia train station after a weekend trip to Mount Vernon.
“Remember, nobody in Centralia ever saw Beth,” Montgomery said. “Nobody that got off at those trains, nobody that was at that open restaurant that sunny night. Nobody on the streets of Centralia. You notice Beth. You did.”
But Wyatt maintains that she knows nothing about Bentley’s whereabouts. And authorities have no persons of interest in the case, Woodstock Police Chief Robert Lowen said.
“I don’t know anything,” Wyatt said. “I keep racking my brain trying to remember if she said anything.”
Wyatt said she and Bentley traveled in May 2010 to Mount Vernon to visit Wyatt’s boyfriend and his brother, who were rehabbing a house in the town about 80 miles east of St. Louis.
Wyatt said she dropped Bentley off across the street from an Amtrak station in nearby Centralia on May 23, 2010.
Authorities have been unable to verify whether Bentley ever boarded a train, and Amtrak has no record of her ever buying a ticket. She hasn’t been seen since.
Woodstock Police are focusing their efforts on the Mount Vernon and Centralia areas with help from downstate authorities and the Illinois State Police. The departments are in weekly contact with downstate police, who have conducted area searches, followed up on leads, and verified witness statements.
Wyatt told police about a boat trip that the group took while in Mount Vernon. Lowen said police verified that the boat trip happened and that everyone returned.
Although rumors swirl about what happened to the mother of three, authorities have not established a leading theory.
“Anything is a possibility,” Lowen said.
Wyatt told the Northwest Herald that Bentley either was going to take the Amtrak train to Chicago or was going to be picked up by a boyfriend – but her memory of that day is foggy.
“I don’t pay attention to a lot of things,” Wyatt said. “I wish I would have paid attention more to what is going on and what was said. ... I don’t remember anything because it wasn’t like I was going to have to remember this weekend forever.”
Bentley’s husband, Scott Bentley, said his wife frequently went on weekend getaways. But this time, Beth Bentley told her husband that she was going to Madison, Wis., with Wyatt.
“That’s the unexplainable part. I don’t know why [she said she was going to Madison]. I have no explanation for that,” Scott Bentley said.
Wyatt works in Scott Bentley’s McHenry law office, where Beth Bentley also worked before she disappeared.
Wyatt didn’t wait for her friend either to be picked up or to board the train a year ago, a fact that “haunts me every day,” she said.
“I feel horrible,” Wyatt said. “I do feel like it’s a lot my fault because I did take her where she wanted to go.”
Scott Bentley said any and all theories about what happened to his wife are on the table, and nothing can be ruled out – even the possibility that she was the victim of foul play or that she left of her own volition.
“You can’t discount any of [the theories] because there are no facts to say this couldn’t have happened,” Scott Bentley said. “You don’t know. She’s vanished.”
The case has confounded authorities, who even listened to what a self-proclaimed psychic had to say.
“Somebody came forward – a friend of Beth’s,” Lowen said. “We listened to this person without much success.”
Lowen said the biggest challenge in the investigation was distance. Beth Bentley last was seen in Centralia, hundreds of miles from where she was reported as a missing person.
Wyatt is hopeful that Beth Bentley is still alive.
“I’m hoping that she left because she was scared,” Wyatt said. “I don’t know what was going through her head. I think she’s just confused.”
But Montgomery said Beth Bentley never would miss the milestones in her children’s lives that have passed this past year. Furthermore, Beth Bentley’s credit cards and cell phone have not been used since she disappeared. The last time her cell phone or any credit cards were used was late afternoon May 23, 2010, Lowen said.
“She didn’t make any plans to leave on her own,” Montgomery said. “It wasn’t planned. She didn’t take anything with her that was of value. If she decided to do it on the fly, she didn’t have enough money to live.”
Wyatt said she shouldn’t have to defend herself against insinuations that she did something wrong.
“This is so hard,” Wyatt said. “I feel like I’m defending something that I shouldn’t have to defend. I didn’t do anything to Beth that [any] other friend wouldn’t have done. She asked me to take her somewhere, and I did. I would never hurt her, and I would never let anyone hurt her.”
Beth Bentley had two sons from a previous marriage, Jeremy and Josh Velmont, 19 and 22 years old, respectively. She and Scott have an 11-year-old son, Cooper.
“The littlest boy, Cooper, he’s just a wonderful kid,” Scott Bentley said. “He’s strong. He’s probably the toughest of all of us.”
Jeremy Velmont called the past year “stressful” on his family, especially his brothers. He and Josh Velmont both have moved out of Scott Bentley’s house and into their own apartments.
“It’s just kind of weird being in the home without my mom being there,” Jeremy Velmont said.
He latched onto hope that his mother was alive but just scared to come home.
“That’s definitely what we’re hoping for,” Jeremy Velmont said. “You don’t want to think that your mother ran away, but it’s better than thinking that she’s dead.”
The way Scott Bentley sees it, there is no good outcome from his wife being missing this long.
“Nothing good is going to happen,” Scott Bentley said. “There’s no happy ending to this.”
Facebook pages have been dedicated to helping find Beth Bentley. One since has been taken down for unknown reasons, but the original page started by Montgomery remains and can be found by searching Missing Beth Bentley on Facebook.
As they wait for answers about what happened to their wife and mother, Beth Bentley’s family just tries to take it one day at a time.
“All I can concentrate on is working and keeping a roof over [my] head for my son and myself, and that’s all you can do,” Scott Bentley said. “The world doesn’t stop, so you just keep going. You just have to.”