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Body of Montana math teacher Sherry Arnold may have been found, authorities say

Sherry Arnold, 43 CBS/KRTV

(CBS/AP) BILLINGS, Mont. - Authorities said Wednesday they believe a body found outside of Williston, North Dakota is that of a missing Montana teacher allegedly kidnapped during her morning run more than two months ago.

The body, believed to be 43-year-old Sherry Arnold, was being sent to the state medical lab in Missoula for further identification, said Sidney Assistant Police Chief Robert Burnison.

Authorities told The Associated Press the body had been buried, which matches up with the alleged confession of one of two men charged in the case.

The recovery effort started Tuesday in western North Dakota about 50 miles from Sidney and the body was removed early Wednesday morning, authorities said.

It's not clear what led authorities to that location. The discovery of the remains across state lines from where the alleged kidnapping occurred means federal charges could be filed against the two suspects.

Michael Keith Spell, 22, and Lester Van Waters Jr., 48, both of Parachute, Colo., have been charged in state court and were being held on $2.5 million bail each.

Court documents filed by the prosecutor in the case indicate Spell has confessed to his role in what an affidavit described as the crack-fueled abduction and killing of Arnold. Authorities have said Spell attempted to take FBI agents to the site but he could not find it.

Arnold was grabbed from along a Sidney street - apparently at random - while she was jogging near her home. Spell reportedly told investigators he pulled her into a car and that Waters choked her to death before they buried her in a shallow grave on a farmstead near Williston.

Arnold was a popular veteran math teacher at Sidney High School. It's where her husband, Gary, also worked and her two children attended school.

Sidney Mayor Bret Smelser said that if authorities confirm it's Arnold's body, it would provide "the closure that we needed" after the search for Arnold dragged on since her Jan. 7 disappearance. Hundreds of volunteers combed the city and surrounding areas when Arnold first went missing.

"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."

Meanwhile, FBI spokeswoman Deborah Bertram said no further details would be immediately released regarding where Arnold's body was found or whether any other evidence was present.

Complete coverage of the Sherry Arnold case on Crimesider

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