Remains Identified as Kidnapped Sidney Teacher

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – The body of a kidnapped Montana high school teacher was found in North Dakota more than two months after she was abducted while jogging, the FBI said Thursday.

The remains of 43-year-old Sherry Arnold were discovered near Williston, N.D., about 50 miles northeast of Sidney, the Montana town where she worked.

Suspects Michael Spell, 22, and Lester Van Waters Jr., 48, have pleaded not guilty to aggravated kidnapping in the case and await trial.

The FBI declined to disclose details on where the body was found or what led them to the site.

Authorities previously said one of the suspects tried to lead FBI agents to the site in past weeks but failed. An autopsy was planned.

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

The disappearance of Arnold launched a massive search that turned up only a single running shoe that she had been wearing the day she was last seen. Family members and those who knew her have been anxious for her body to be found to bring the case to some resolution.

Arnold 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.

She was well-known in the community and popular among her students and their parents. Arnold was married to a fellow Sidney Public Schools employee, Gary, and together they raised five children from prior marriages. Arnold’s son and daughter are students at Sidney High School.

The state charges against Spell and Waters can carry a potential death penalty if a victim is not released unharmed. A similar federal charge could also carry a death penalty upon conviction.

Court documents filed by the prosecutor in the case indicate Spell acknowledged 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 by 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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