March 23, 2012 in City

Remains are of missing teacher

Two suspects await trial on kidnapping charges
Matthew Brown Associated Press

BILLINGS – A body found in North Dakota was identified Thursday as a missing Montana teacher kidnapped in January.

The identification was made after the body of 43-year-old Sherry Arnold was taken to the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula.

Arnold was grabbed off a Sidney, Mont., street on Jan. 7 while jogging at the edge of town. Michael Spell, 22, and Lester Van Waters Jr., 48, were charged with aggravated kidnapping in the case and await trial.

The FBI said no other details will be released at this time.

Arnold’s body was found near Williston, N.D., about 50 miles northeast of Sidney.

It’s not clear what led authorities to that location, although one of the suspects in the case had apparently tried to lead FBI agents to the site in past weeks but failed.

The discovery of the remains across state lines from where the kidnapping took place means federal charges could be filed against Spell and Waters.

Arnold was a popular veteran math teacher at Sidney High School, where her husband, Gary, also worked and her two children attended classes. She grew up on a ranch outside Sidney, a city of 5,000 near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers that’s been drastically changed by a recent oil boom.

Spell and Waters pleaded not guilty last month to one count each of aggravated kidnapping during an arraignment in state district court in Sidney.

Court documents indicate Spell has confessed to his role in what an affidavit described as the crack-fueled abduction and killing of Arnold.

Spell told investigators he pulled her into a car, and Waters choked her to death before they buried her in a shallow grave on a farmstead near Williston.

Farmers and other property owners were alerted by the FBI to be on the lookout for stirred-up plots of ground or grass that might conceal a grave.

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