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Defendant in teacher’s killing returns to jail

SIDNEY, Mont. — The defendant in the trial for the murder of Montana teacher Sherry Arnold has returned to jail after a mental evaluation at the state hospital.

Michael Spell, 24, had been at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs.

Richland County court clerk Janice Klempel said a new date for the trial hasn’t been set. It was scheduled to start Jan. 6 but was continued for the purposes of completing the mental evaluation, she said.

The trial has already been moved to Glendive, Mont., after defense attorneys argued that Spell couldn’t get a fair trial in Sidney, a small community that was captivated by the disappearance of math teacher Arnold.

Co-defendant Lester Van Waters Jr. pleaded guilty in August. His deal spares him the death penalty while requiring him to testify against Spell at trial. Waters was also sentenced to 100 years in prison.

Authorities have said the men grabbed Arnold off a street in Sidney after a drug-fueled drive from Colorado to North Dakota’s Bakken region in search of work.

Spell and Waters allegedly choked Arnold and drowned her in a puddle. Her body was found two months later in Williston, N.D.

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