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Mont. teacher's body likely found in North Dakota

Mont. teacher's body likely found in North Dakota

March 22nd, 2012 in News

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Authorities said Wednesday they believe a body found outside Williston, N.D., is that of a missing Sidney, Mont., high school math teacher who disappeared Jan. 7 during a morning run.

Sidney Assistant Police Chief Robert Burnison said the body, likely that of Sherry Arnold, is being sent to the state medical lab in Missoula for further identification.

Authorities told the Associated Press the body had been buried. The recovery effort started Tuesday in western North Dakota about 50 miles from Sidney, and the body was found early Wednesday, authorities said.

It's still not clear what led them to that location.

The location of the body across the state line from where the alleged kidnapping occurred means there could be federal charges against the two suspects in the case, Michael Keith Spell, 22, and Lester Van Waters Jr., 47, both of Parachute, Colo.

U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter said Wednesday he could not comment on whether the case would change jurisdictions.

Arnold was a popular veteran teacher at Sidney High School, where her husband, Gary, also worked. She grew up on a ranch outside the city of 5,000 near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers.

Her father, Ron Whited, said he met with authorities Wednesday afternoon about the possible recovery of her body. "Whatever there is to say, the law enforcement and FBI have to say it," he said.

Sidney Mayor Brett Smelser said if authorities confirm it's Arnold's body, it would provide "the closure that we needed" after the case has dragged on for more than two months.

"It's been tough for the family and the community," Smelser said. "Hopefully the family will have some final closure and be able to put the body to rest."

Authorities said no further details will be released at this time.

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

They face a possible death penalty under Montana law if convicted.