Remains identified as those of slain Montana teacher

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 22, 2012 5:18 PM

By Lori Grannis

MISSOULA, Montana (Reuters) - Investigators have positively identified human remains found in North Dakota as those of a Montana school teacher who authorities say was abducted and slain as she was jogging near her home two months ago, the FBI said on Thursday.

The remains of Sherry Arnold, 43, were recovered by FBI investigators on Wednesday in the vicinity of Williston, North Dakota, about 40 miles from the northeastern Montana town of Sidney, where she lived, FBI spokeswoman Deborah Bertram said.

Bertram declined to comment on circumstances leading to the location of the remains, or in what condition they were found.

"That's part of the ongoing investigation," she said.

Identification of the remains was made by medical examiners of the state crime lab, Bertram said.

Arnold was last seen alive setting out on a morning run on January 7 near her home. Her husband reported her missing when she did not return.

Two men, Lester Vann Waters, 47, and Michael Keith Spell, 22, were arrested about a week later and charged with aggravated kidnapping in connection with Arnold's disappearance.

Authorities believe she was snatched off the street as she jogged along a truck route in Sidney.

According to a sworn statement of the prosecutor overseeing the investigation, Waters was looking for a woman to abduct and kill when he strangled Arnold in a crack cocaine-induced frenzy in the back of his Ford Explorer.

The prosecutor's affidavit says Spell confessed to helping bury Arnold in a shallow grave at the end of a row of trees planted as a windbreak, or "shelter belt," beside an old farmstead.

Spell said he later felt remorse when he saw posters of the missing teacher, telephoned his family in Colorado and told them what had happened, then hitchhiked to Rapid City, South Dakota, where he was arrested, the affidavit said. Waters was arrested separately in Williston.

Both were extradited back to Montana in February.

The disappearance of Arnold, who colleagues described as a respected and well-liked high school mathematics teacher, cast a pall over Sidney, a farming community of roughly 5,000 residents.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Tim Gaynor)