Colorado men held in connection with missing teacher case

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 15, 2012 4:43 PM
Colorado men held in connection with missing teacher case

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - Two Colorado men were being held in a North Dakota jail on Sunday on kidnapping charges in connection with the disappearance of a Montana teacher, authorities said.

Lester Vann Waters, 47, and Michael Keith Spell, 22, of Parachute, Colorado, were detained after a tip to a hotline set up by authorities, police said. They are charged with aggravated kidnapping.

The pair was being held in a county jail about 45 minutes away from Sidney, Montana, where high school math instructor Sherry Arnold disappeared more than a week ago near her home.

The town's mayor and Arnold's husband said her body has not been recovered, but police have said they believe she is dead.

The 43-year-old Arnold was last seen on January 7 setting off for a predawn run. Her husband reported her missing when she did not return home.

Searchers found one of her running shoes on the outskirts of the town, which has undergone rapid growth amid a regional oil and gas boom.

"To the best of my knowledge, no body has been recovered," Sidney Mayor Bret Smelser told Reuters late on Saturday. "We don't know where the body is at this point."

Arnold's husband, Gary Arnold, said he was grateful for the work of the FBI and police in the case and told Reuters he believes police "may know where she is."

"While this did not turn out the way we all had hoped, at least we are moving toward a resolution and an answer," he said. "We have the gift of being able to say farewell to Sher, and we are thanking God."

Waters and Spell will be extradited to Montana from the Williams County Law Enforcement Center, where they were being held, said Williams County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Thompson.

Arnold, a coordinator of federal programs for the same public school system in Sidney that employed his wife, expressed gratitude to those who helped him and his family.

"We thank the searchers, the people who fed us, the people who cared, the people who loved Sher. We want to thank them for the love they showed us," he said.

The mayor of Sidney, a 5,000-population town on the upper Missouri River, said stepped-up oil and gas production from hydraulic fracturing has brought more people and economic activity as well as crime to the town.

He said firearms sales and permits to carry concealed handguns were on the rise, Smelser said.

"Before this, we always presumed we were safe and felt secure," he said.

(Edited by Karen Brooks and Ellen Wulfhorst)