Lester Van Waters Jr., 50, was sentenced to 80 years in prison on Monday for his role in Sherry Arnold’s murder.

Lester Van Waters Jr., 50, was sentenced to 80 years in prison on December 15 for his role in Sherry Arnold’s murder.

December 17, 2014, 11:40 AM: “Mr. Waters you are losing your freedom. Sherry Arnold lost her life,” Judge Simonton said. Based on the plea agreement, Simonton sentenced Lester Waters Jr., one of the two men who pleaded guilty in the homicide of Sherry Arnold, to 100 years in the Montana State Prison with 20 years suspended. Waters, 50, will be eligible for parole in 20 years after pleading guilty to the amended count of accountability to deliberate homicide. Keith Spell, 25, allegedly told authorities that Van Waters killed Arnold, a jailhouse informant testified that “Spell said he choked her out … pushed Sherry’s face into some water and drowned her to make sure she was dead.” Spell later admitted that he was unsure if he or Waters killed Arnold.

The younger man reportedly acted on the older’s directive because Van Waters said “he wanted to have sex,”
The judge noted eastern Montana and western North Dakota were greatly affected by the kidnapping and murder of the Sidney teacher on Jan. 7, 2012. He said the only way that he was open to accepting the binding plea agreement was that attorneys instructed him that the family of Arnold was agreeable. Simonton also ordered Waters to pay $21,448 in restitution to Gary Arnold, Sherry’s husband. Waters’ vehicle will be sold with funds going toward the restitution.
According to pre-sentencing information, Simonton said Waters is about $84,000 in debt due to back child support. Waters has seven children with five different women. read more read Spell

[August 13 2013 Sherry Arnold :Lester Van Waters Jr ( 2 children) pleads guilty]

M. K Spell

M. K Spell

L V Waters

L V Waters

SIDNEY – Lester Van Waters, Jr., the co-defendant in the Sherry Arnold murder case, has entered into a plea agreement with the state.

Waters has been charged with deliberate kidnapping and deliberate homicide in the 2012 death of Arnold.

According to the Richland County Clerk of Courts, Waters will appear before District Judge Richard Simonton on Tuesday afternoon at 2:00 pm.

The plea agreement calls for a 100-year sentence that will spare Waters the death penalty, as long as he agrees to plead guilty and assist the state in the prosecution of Michael Spell.

In addition, 20 years of the 100-year sentence would be suspended, and there would not be any restriction on Waters’ eligibility for parole.

Judge Simonton will make the final ruling Tuesday afternoon as to whether or not he’ll accept the plea agreement.

Click here to read the plea agreement (PDF).


January 7th: Sherry Arnold, a 43 year old teacher in Sidney, Montana is reported missing after failing to return from a morning run.

January 7th: A search begins for Arnold which includes 100 people, including 40 members of the Montana National Guard and two planes searching by air.

January 7th: Authorities recover one of Arnold’s jogging shoes in northeast Sidney along Ninth Avenue. A substance which has not been identified by law enforcement was found on the shoe.

January 9th: The Montana Department of Justice issues a Missing Persons Alert for Arnold.

January 10th: The Federal Bureau of Investigation becomes involved in the investigation into Arnold’s disappearance due to proximity to North Dakota and potential of kidnapping.

January 11th: A tip line is set up by investigators for information leading to the whereabouts of Sherry Arnold (406) 433-4027. Also, a “Help Find Sherry Arnold” page on Facebook garners thousands of visits.

January 12th: Formal search efforts are suspended until authorities receive new information.

January 12th: Arnold added to the FBI Missing Persons List.

January 13th: The Sidney School District posts on their website that it had informed students and teachers that Sherry Arnold is dead. The school says they were informed by Arnold’s family.

January 13th: A press conference is held by Sidney police in conjunction with the FBI. Sidney Police Chief Frank DiFonzo said a 47-year-old man is in custody in Williston, North Dakota, and a 22-year-old man had been detained for questioning in Rapid City, South Dakota, both in connection with Arnold’s disappearance.

January 13th: Hundreds pour into the gym at Sidney High School for a memorial vigil.

January 14th: Sidney Police Chief Frank DiFonzo confirms that the two men in custody have been arraigned on charges of aggravated kidnapping and are being held at the Williams County Jail in Williston, North Dakota.

January 15th: The two men held on charges of aggravated kidnapping are identified as 47-year-old Lester Waters Jr. and 22-year-old Michael Spell. Both men are most recently from Parachute, Colorado.

[January 19, 2012]

Waters had several stints in jail in Indian River County and was incarcerated three times by the Florida Department of Corrections: from September 2002 to December 2003; August 2007 to March 2008; and 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, and said he was not married.
Michael Keith Spell, 22, and 47-year-old Lester Vann Waters are charged in Montana with aggravated kidnapping, a felony charge that carries the death penalty in that state, in connection with the Jan. 7 disappearance of teacher Sherry Arnold of Sidney enter a Williams County courtroom Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012 for a preliminary extradition hearing in Williston, N.D. Spell’s application for a public defender in the missing teacher case suggests he is married with a 1-year-old son.

Michael Keith Spell

Michael Keith Spell

Accused kidnapper Lester V Waters

Accused Kidnapper

Pastors from Sidney Montana for Sherry Arnold at  gym, recited the Lord's Prayer

Pastors from Sidney Montana for Sherry Arnold at gym, recited the Lord's Prayer

Lester Van Waters Jr., 47, and Michael Keith Spell, 22, both of Parachute, Colorado, have been arraigned in Williams County, North Dakota, on charges of aggravated kidnapping in connection with the disappearance of Sherry Arnold.
SIDNEY, Montana: “It’s just so sudden.”
it is believed that Sherry Arnold may be deceased and that her body has not been recovered.

Law enforcement officials are requesting that North Dakota property owners in Williams County, McKenzie County, Mountrail County, and those in extreme northeastern Montana check shelter belts and vacant farmsteads on their land for disturbed soil.

The surrounding grassy area may also appear to be matted. A shelter belt is a line of trees that protects soil from the wind. Ms. Arnold’s body may be buried in a shelter belt that contains mature or rotted trees. Mrs Arnold, 43, disappeared while on an run along a two-lane, farm-to-market route with mostly local traffic and some tractor-trailers,.a truck route on the edge of the oil boom town in northeast Montana that has about 5,500 residents.
Sidney — a town of about 5,000 only 10 miles from the border with North Dakota — is changing as people pour in from out of town, chasing the money brought by the Bakken oil boom.
He’s seen it before — the last time there was an oil boom in the 1980s.
“We have a lot of activity now at this part of the state,” DiFonzo said. “A lot of out-of-state people are here to work, and locals don’t know them or recognize them.”
The influx has increased crime, and DiFonzo said officers are responding to more bar fights, domestic violence and drunken driving.
“We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
The Town of Parachute is a Statutory Town in Garfield County, Colorado, United States. The population was 1,006 at the 2000 census. they had to either charge the two men being questioned (and in custody) or to let them go no later than Sunday night, as it would have completed the 72-hour window allotted them for questioning without bringing charges.

The two men were charged.

Riders from Parachute, Colorado

Riders from Parachute, Colorado


Harry Spell said his son was anxious to prove himself to his parents and girlfriend, with whom he has a 1-year-old son.

Harry Spell said his son was anxious to prove himself to his parents and girlfriend, with whom he has a 1-year-old son.

Judge Richard Simonton, May 13,ruled that Michael Spell, 25, is competent to stand trial.
During a two-day competency hearing in March, Spell’s attorneys had argued that Spell suffers from an intellectual disability and is not competent enough for legal proceedings.
Prosecutors will not ask for the death penalty against defendant Michael Spell for the murder of Sidney teacher Sherry Arnold. The prosecutors filed a “Withdraw of Notice of Intent to Seek Death Penalty” on May 17. In the filing, Richland County Attorney Mike Weber cited the 2002 United States Supreme Court case Atkins v. Virginia. “Intellectually disabled criminals are not subject to the death penalty,” Weber stated. Weber also referred to the competency hearing held in March. During the hearing, three expert witnesses gave testimony. “All three experts, including Dr. Hill whom the state called as a witness at the hearing, opined that the defendant herein is intellectually disabled,” Weber wrote. A scheduling conference took place over the telephone on May 17. According to Richland County Clerk of Court Janice Klempel, a trial date has been scheduled to begin on December 17. The trial is expected to last up to three weeks. Waters has entered a plea deal, and could spend up to 80 years in prison. Prosecutors plan to sentence Waters after the outcome of Spell’s case. Waters has agreed to testify against Spell during his trial.
[March 23]
Michael Spell’s mental capacity will be the subject of a competency hearing March 24 before District Judge Richard Simonton. Spell’s defense team argues in briefs filed March 20 that the 24-year old’s intellectual disability, should remove the death penalty in his case.

Attorneys Al Avignone and Lisa Banick say Spell reads and comprehends at the level of a first grader. Their legal brief describes Spell’s difficulty remembering dates, times and geographical locations.

Thursday’s court filing states that Spell cannot write much beyond printing his name, and he is unable to read and understand the charges against him. Spell’s attorneys also point to a court ordered mental evaluation, that diagnosed their client as disabled.

Spell’s attorneys also point to a Colorado juvenile case against their client in 2007, where charges against Spell were dismissed at the prosecutor’s request due to Spell’s incompetency.

State prosecutors have yet to file their briefs with the court, so it’s unclear what arguments will be made to convince the judge that the death penalty should remain a possible outcome of Spell’s case.

[2013] 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, with whom he has a 1-year-old son.

[February 19]

Lester Waters

Lester Waters

Prosecutors in northeast Montana on Friday filed an affidavit in state court containing the chilling confession of Michael Keith Spell, 22, one of the men charged with kidnapping Sherry Arnold, 43, on Jan. 7.

Spell told police that he and Lester Waters, 47, both of Colorado, were smoking crack cocaine during a trip to Montana to find work when Waters said he was seized by the urge to kidnap and kill a woman, the Sidney Herald newspaper reported.

Waters said the drug “brought the devil out in him,” according to Spell’s confession.

As the two drove through Sidney, Mont., they spotted Arnold running along a road and hatched a plan to abduct her.

The two parked their green Ford Explorer up ahead of Arnold, and when she came past them, Spell jumped her and pulled her into the truck, the document said.

Arnold lost a sneaker in the struggle, which was later found on the route by police.

Once they had Arnold in the vehicle, Waters climbed into the back seat and “choked her out,” Spell confessed.

The math teacher lay “dead inside the vehicle under a blanket,” while the pair drove to North Dakota, where they tossed her clothing in a dumpster before eventually burying her body in a 3-foot grave on an abandoned farm outside of Williston, some 45 miles away.

Spell said he was later wracked with guilt after spotting missing posters with Arnold’s face on them and called his girlfriend in Colorado to confess.

Waters was arrested in Williston on Jan. 12 and Spell was picked up in Rapid City, S.D., the next day.
[February 16]North Dakota District Judge David Nelson made the final verdict to extradite both suspects. Lester Waters Jr. and Michael Spell are set to appear in District Court on February 28th. They are being held in the Richland County Jail on $2.5 million bond.

Once the Richland County Attorney files the proceedings in District Court, more information will be released regarding what led authorities to arrest Waters and Spell.

Montana Seventh District Court, Affidavit of Mike Weber

Montana Seventh District Court, Affidavit of Mike Weber