MISSOULA, Montana (Reuters) - Two men accused of abducting a Montana school teacher missing since last month and presumed dead were ordered sent back from North Dakota to Montana on Tuesday to face kidnapping charges there.
A judge in Williams County District Court in Williston, N.D., granted Montana's request for the extradition of Lester Waters Jr., 47, and Michael Spell, 22, who have been held there since after their arrests in January.
The North Dakota state's attorney's office said the two men, both from Parachute, Colo., will be returned to Montana authorities in the farming town of Sidney, about 45 miles west of Williston, sometime on Tuesday.
They are charged with aggravated kidnapping in connection with the disappearance of Sherry Arnold, 43. The high school math teacher vanished from Sidney in northeastern Montana on January 7 after setting off for a predawn run along a truck route on the outskirts of town.
She was later reported missing by her husband, and one of her shoes was recovered during an initial search of the area.
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer signed the warrant for their extradition early last week.
The FBI has said that Arnold may be dead even though her body has not been found. Investigators have asked landowners in Williston and adjacent rural areas near Sidney to check for possible makeshift burial sites near mature or rotted trees.
Arnold's disappearance and presumed death have shaken the sense of safety and security in Sidney, the seat of a Montana county long known for leading the state in production of sugar beets and dry beans.
The town of 5,000 has recently been experiencing rapid growth, and an influx of outsiders, linked to a regional oil and gas boom related to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
(Reporting by Lori Grannis; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Dan Burns)