April 10, 2008 in City

New leads revive search for man

Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer
 

Law enforcement will scour the snowy land south of St. Maries this week for the body of a man they believe was shot to death by a teenage boy in 2006, then buried in the mountains by the teen and his father.

Authorities in the North Idaho logging town long suspected foul play in the disappearance of Robert J. Spray, but it wasn’t until this week that town gossip pointed them to witnesses and gave them enough information to arrest James Arnold, 45, and Joseph Arnold, 17, said Douglas Payne, Benewah County’s prosecuting attorney.

Joseph Arnold is in the Region 1 Juvenile Detention Center on one charge of voluntary manslaughter. James Arnold faces one felony charge of concealing evidence; he had his first court appearance Wednesday, when his bail was set at $100,000.

Witnesses say Spray, who was 41, had been drinking around town with the elder Arnold in early August 2006 before joining him and others at the Arnold home, Payne said. The two began arguing, and Arnold asked Spray to leave.

“Somewhere in that argument, the boy brought out a rifle,” Payne said.

Joseph Arnold fired the .300 Winchester Magnum rifle through a front room wall, Payne said. The bullet hit Spray, who witnesses say was standing on the porch, Payne said.

Spray’s family reported him missing on Aug. 22, 2006.

Payne said Spray had frequent interaction with police – 13 calls in one year referenced him – so when police stopped hearing from him, they figured something bad had happened.

“If he was around, he was always involved with the police one way or another,” Payne said. “Either he was complaining about somebody or they were complaining about him.”

Details in the case remain sketchy. Witnesses gave investigators a general location for the body, which Payne said appears to be on private land in the St. Maries River drainage. Snow is still heavy in that area, and the forest has been logged since Spray’s disappearance.

“The case is still evolving pretty rapidly, and charges could change,” Payne said.

Officials aren’t even sure where Spray was shot.

“Hopefully we can better determine that after the body’s found,” Payne said. “But after a year and a half, that may be somewhat problematic.”

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