Montana authorities seek extradition in kidnapping


BILLINGS — Authorities on Wednesday started extradition procedures against two men held in North Dakota in the kidnapping of a Montana teacher who is presumed dead.

Richland County Attorney Mike Weber said he expects a hearing within the next 30 days on whether to extradite 47-year-old Lester Vann Waters Jr. and 22-year-old Michael Keith Spell. The two requested the hearing in an initial court appearance Tuesday in Williston, N.D.

The pair face aggravated kidnapping charges in the Jan. 7 disappearance of Sherry Arnold, a 43-year-old Sidney High School teacher who left her house for a morning run and never returned.

Arnold's body has not been found, and authorities won't say why she is presumed dead or what led to the arrest of Waters and Spell.

Complaints against the suspects filed in Sidney City Court allege that they "restrained Sherry Arnold by either secreting or holding her in a place of isolation or by using or threatening to use physical force, with the purpose to inflict bodily injury or to terrorize her."

Court documents say the kidnapping occurred in the same place where one of Arnold's running shoes was found on the day she died, about 10 minutes after she left her house to go running.

Weber declined to offer any further details on the case. He said that if the extradition process drags on too long or is somehow derailed, authorities could ask Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer to intervene and request the men's transfer.

The extradition is being prosecuted by the North Dakota state's attorney in Williston. Questions to the state's attorney office were referred to the FBI, which has been assisting in the investigation. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

No federal charges have been filed in the case. For that to happen, authorities first would have to determine Arnold was taken across state lines during the kidnapping.

Both suspects have been identified as Colorado residents. But Waters is originally from Florida, where he worked in construction and had an extensive criminal record.

Waters was arrested more than a dozen times in Florida between 1986 and 2008, according to records obtained Wednesday from the Indian River County Sheriff's Office.

Charges against him included possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, sale of cocaine, petty theft, burglary, failure to pay child support, contempt of court, resisting an officer and multiple counts of driving with a suspended license.

Waters had several stints in jail in Indian River County and served three state prison sentences, from September 2002 to December 2003; August 2007 to March 2008; and from March 2009 to August 2010.

In an application for a public defender filed in Williams County, N.D., Waters listed his home address as Parachute, Colo., where court records also show he had a driver's license. He listed two children, ages 5 and 15, but said he was not married.

Waters stated in his application he was prevented from hiring a private lawyer because he had "no money."

Spell has at least two prior arrests in Colorado from 2007, on charges of drug possession, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, sexual contact without consent and, in a separate case, careless driving and driving without a license. Both cases were later dropped, although it was unclear on what grounds.

Spell's application for a public defender suggests he is married with a 1-year-old son. He also stated he has no money.


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