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Teacher was killed, buried, filing reveals

Prosecutors are disclosing the first details of what they believe happened to a Montana school teacher who was allegedly choked to death and buried, reporting she was the victim of a crack-fueled and seemingly random abduction.

An affidavit filed Friday by Richland County prosecutor Mike Weber is based largely on the alleged confession of Michael Spell, a suspect in the case who told FBI investigators that he felt guilty when he saw "missing" posters for Sherry Arnold, 43, after helping bury her body on a farmstead outside of Williston, N.D., about 45 miles from where she was abducted.

Spell, 22, and Lester Waters, 47, both of Colorado, are scheduled to appear in Montana district court Feb. 28 on charges of aggravated kidnapping. They are being held on $2.5 million bail each.

The alleged kidnapping took place on Jan. 7, just blocks from Arnold's house in Sidney, at a spot where investigators later recovered one of her running shoes. Her body has not been found.

Authorities arrested Spell and Waters a week after the crime based on a tip that led them to Spell's girlfriend, who said he had confided in her about the kidnapping, according to the affidavit. Spell and Waters left Colorado just days before Arnold disappeared, with the purported aim of picking up work in the bustling oil fields of eastern Montana and western North Dakota.

After smoking crack cocaine during the entire trip, Waters allegedly told Spell that the drug "brought the devil out in him" and began talking about kidnapping and killing a female, the affidavit states.

After they spotted Arnold, Spell alleges that Waters told him to "grab the lady" and pull her into their Ford Explorer.

"Spell said Waters got into the back seat with the female and 'choked her out,' " the affidavit states. That night, after dropping Arnold's body in a rural area of North Dakota, the affidavit says Waters bought a shovel at a Walmart in Williston. The pair later buried Arnold in a 2- to 3-feet-deep hole on an old farmstead.

Property owners in rural eastern Montana and western North Dakota have been asked to look for disturbed soil or other indications of a grave.