BILLINGS, Montana – 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 Monday near Williston 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.
Sidney Mayor Brett Smelser said that if authorities confirm that it's Arnold's body, that 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.
Two Colorado men have been charged with aggravated kidnapping in the case and face a possible death penalty if convicted.
Michael Keith Spell, 22, and Lester Van Waters Jr., 47, both of Parachute, Colo., pleaded not guilty last month to one count each of aggravated kidnapping during an arraignment in state district court in Sidney.
Court documents filed by the prosecutor in the case indicate Spell has confessed to his role in the crack-fueled abduction and presumed killing of Arnold. Authorities have said Spell attempted to take FBI agents to the site but could not find it.
State district Judge Katherine Irigoin set separate trial dates for the two men beginning in July. She told the defendants they could face the death penalty under Montana law if convicted.
Arnold was abducted -- apparently at random -- while she was jogging near her home on the morning of Jan. 7. Authorities said Spell told investigators he pulled her into a car and she was choked to death by Waters before they buried her in a shallow grave on a farmstead near Williston.
Spell's father, Harry, told The Associated Press that his son had travelled with Waters to the oil fields of Montana and North Dakota after Waters guaranteed work paying up to $2,000 a week.
Harry Spell said his son was anxious to prove himself to his parents and girlfriend Angel Cruz, with whom he has a 1-year-old son.
Michael Spell had found past work in the oil fields near Parachute and on a fire damage cleanup crew but was unable to keep the jobs "because he didn't quite understand what to do," Harry Spell said.
"He might be 22 years old, but he has an education less than a kindergartner," Harry Spell said.
Spell and Waters are being defended by court-appointed attorneys.
Waters is originally from Florida, where had a lengthy criminal background and served time in state prison.